Trafficking, violence, women in peace talks top agenda in 3rd National Conference of Muslim Women Peace Advocates

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Gender experts from Aceh. and Hiroshima University, Japan will speak before around 150 delegates comprised of Aleemat (Muslim women religious scholars), Asatidz (Muslim women religious teachers) and Muslim women civil society leaders from Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Basilan,  Sulu and Tawi-tawi who will gather in the 3rd National Conference of Muslim Women Peace Advocates at Lantaka Hotel in Zamboanga City on March 31-April 3, 2012.

Anchored on the theme “Empowered Women of Faith, Rebuilding Peace,” the Conference will strengthen the role of the national network of aleemat and women peace advocates.
On April 1, DSWD Undersecretary Parisha Taradji will be the keynote speaker.  Dr. Asna Husin, Professor of the Ar-Raniry State Institute for Islamic Studies, Darussalam Banda Aceh, Indonesia, will share her expertise and experiences on Women and Islamic Peace Education.  Dr. Hussin initiated the internationally recognized Islamic Peace Education program of Aceh.  Professor Megumi Kagawa Sakamoto of Hiroshima University will talk about  Japanese perspectives on how to harness resilience, self-reliant leadership, and collective empowerment to promote gender equality, social change and progress.
The gathering is being organized by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc. (MKFI) which believe that women are significant stakeholders and should therefore be key players and partners in promoting economic development and a sustained culture of peace.
PCID President Amina Rasul said, “Over the years, the effects of conflict in Mindanao have affected hundreds of thousands of individuals, most of them women and children. Thus, women have to be involved in peace building as well as in development.”
For the past decade, PCID and the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc. (MKFI) have been conducting workshops, focus group discussions and training sessions with Muslim women, with the purpose of developing them as peace advocates and agents of change.
In 2009, the PCID and MKFI organized the first training program specifically designed for the Aleemat and Muslim women civil society leaders on conflict prevention, peacemaking, and civic education while building their network, supported by the One Woman Initiative (OWI).  OWI was inspired by the late Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.  The organizers of OWI believed that if one woman like the late Benazir could make a difference, imagine if many women could be supported to make a difference in their communities.
With the support of the Japan Foundation and other partners, the PCID and MKFI hosted the First National Conference of Women Peace Advocates in January 2010, whose theme was Noorus Salam: Women of Faith, Light of Peace, which strengthened their network and renewed their commitment to actively participate in the fields of peace advocacy and in nation building.
The 2nd national conference in February 2011 provided the forum for the Noorus Salam members to engage senior government officials, development partners and each other on the Mindanao peace process, human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence against women, human security, health, democratic reforms and peace education.
Japan Foundation, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), the Asia Pacific Centre on the Responsibility to Protect (APCR2P), and the USAID’s Sustainable Health Improvements through Empowerment and Local Development (SHIELD) supported the said gathering.
In the upcoming 3rd national conference, resource persons and facilitators from the academe, civil society organizations, and national agencies will provide inputs and will facilitate workshops which will strengthen Muslim women organizations, enhance their capacity in peace advocacy and nation-building as well as in conducting education on human rights, human trafficking, gender based violence, and violence against children.
Former Senator Dr. Santanina T. Rasul and Hon. Nur-Ana I. Sahidulla, Representative of the 2nd District  of Sulu will welcome the participants during the opening dinner on March 31.  Invited guests to deliver messages of solidarity are the Hon. Luwalhati Antonino, Chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA);  Ms Remedios Rikken, President of the Philippine Commission for Women, Ms. Helen Rojas – Balawag, Chairperson of the ARMM Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women, and Assistant Secretary Jehanne Mutin-Mapupuno of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process.
Resource persons for the Noorus Salam participants include PCW President Remmy Rikken who will be joined by Ms. Aurora ‘Oyie’ de Dios, former Chair National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (now PCW) and Mindanao Commission of Women founder Irene “Inday” Santiago.

The National Conference will provide the Noorus Salam the opportunity to meet and discuss organizational issues as well as undergo capacity-building workshops on human rights facilitated by the Commission on Human Rights, human trafficking to be facilitated by the Visayan Forum, health to be facilitated by the ARMM- Department of Health, as well as disaster risk reduction and Islamic peace education.

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