Moro women, second to none

Senadora: Champion of Filipino women’s rights

Santanina “Nina” Rasul, the island girl, graduated Cum Laude in A.B. Political Science from the University of the Philippines.  She was a favorite model of now national artists Napoleon Abueva and Ireneo Miranda.  She returned to Sulu and became a public school teacher (1952 to 1957) where she taught among others, MNLF chairman Nur Misuari.  

While Nina devoted herself to becoming a fulltime wife and mother, she spent her free time serving her community.  Her husband, the late Ambassador Abraham Rasul, also believed in public service.  Disturbed by the high levels of illiteracy in the Muslim communities, she developed an effective literacy methodology in the 60s,  Magbassa Kita (Let Us Read).  This has been implemented by the Department of Education as a national literacy program. She founded the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc. which has trained about 1,500 literacy teachers nationwide.  In 1990, she was appointed Honorary Ambassador of UNESCO during the International Literacy year.

A liberal Muslim husband, Abe encouraged his wife to give in to the clamor of their community run for office. She was elected barrio councilor at Moore Avenue, Jolo, Sulu (1960-1963). Later, she would be the first Tausug woman elected Provincial Board Member (1971-76). She was appointed a Commissioner representing Muslim and other ethics minorities in the National Commission on the Role of Fiipino Women from 1978 to 1987.

The first Muslim woman elected Senator, the only Muslim elected Senator for two terms (1987 and 1992), she is unfortunately also the last Muslim Senator.  Nina authored eight laws as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Government Recognition and the Committee on Women and Family Relations. She received the WOMEN’S GOVERNMENT (GO) AND NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION (NGO) NETWORK AWARD, for her comprehensive legislation for the promotion of women empowerment, specifically RA 6949 – making March 8 as National Women’s Day; RA 7192 – Women in Development and Nation Building Act which removed vestiges of discrimination against women, opened the doors of the Philippine Military Academy to women.

Nina received THE GOLDEN HEART PRESIDENTIAL AWARD in 1998, “for her diligent efforts in reconciling contentious positions of both the government and the MNLF during the last phase of the peace negotiations in 1996, culminating in her active involvement in the formulation of the Final Peace Agreement which ended hostilities between the two parties”.  

After leaving the Senate, she has focused her energies on organizing Muslim Women Peace Advocates, the education of Tausug youth and Magbassa Kita.  

The Princess who settled vendettas

Princess Tarhata "Tata" Alonto-Lucman, 80, of Lanao del Sur was the first lady governor in Mindanao at a period of turmoil during the martial law years.  

Tata is better known as a rido (clan conflict) settler.   TIME Magazine noted her peacemaking role for helping the release of kidnapped nuns in Marawi City in 1986. Literally standing between shooting clans, Tata was able to settle the most bloody conflicts.

Born into royalty among the Ranaw’s Pat a Pangampong Sultanates, Tata as a girl looked up to other pioneering Moro ladies like Princess Tarhata Kiram and Dayang Dayang Piandao of Sulu who were able to get educated and travel abroad and to the capital. Tata was reared in the world of politics. She assisted her father, who was “no read, no write” in his travels to Manila. This would be her training ground in the man’s world. When then President Ferdinand Marcos called datus and politicians to Malacanang to consult on declaring martial law, Governor Tata’s advisers and kin advised her against going to Manila and face the fearsome, notorious Marcos. But Tata prevailed. Tata, the only lady in the entourage, went with other political kingpins— Tamano, Dimaporo, Pendatun. When Marcos asked, what could you say about my proposal for martial law? After a long silence, Tata stood up among the datus who could not oppose the forthcoming militarization of the South. She spoke sarcastically, “Even as I am an ordinary woman, I have to raise my hand. Thank you for inviting this group. As governor, I should be here to answer your call for a meeting with Muslims. What I can say with all the datus here is that they are unitedly agreed to support you in the announcement for reform. Thank you, God bless you and the Filipino people.” The feisty Tata was removed from governorship by Marcos but would later be reinstated by President Cory Aquino.
This maverick attitude also defined her personal choices. Tata also didn’t want to marry  someone not her choice. She was constantly engaged by her family to men from Maranao buena familia , but she would break the betrothals. She married her mentor, Sultan Al-Rashid Lucman, Founder of the Bangsamoro Liberation Organization.  The couple went on exile during martial law.  

Princess and Educator

Her jihad was simple – education for all. A Maguindanawan princess pursuing free education for her provincemates, Bai Matabay Namli Plang of Kabacan founded the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in 1951.   Bai Matabay Namli Plang was one of the children of Moro royalty educated in the United States as  a pensionado or government-sponsored student. Plang returned home and was married off to another political scion, Salipada Pendatun, who would later become congressman and instrumental in creating the Children’s Educational Foundation Village (CEFV) now called the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST).

Foremost of Matabay’s achievement was founding the Mindanao Institute of Technology (MIT) now the University of Southern Mindanao (USM), which has become one of the country’s top schools for agricultural education. In the 1940s, Matabay was able to get enough capital support from politicians to acquire from the Americans the 1,024 hectares of former rubber plantation in the town of Kabacan, Cotabato Province. The MIT achieved university status in 1978.  

It is a testament to her vision and passion that today , USM has expanded to three campuses covering 5, 1297 hectares  and more than 10,000 students . It is also in the top ten among more than 120 state-owned universities and colleges that earned Level IV, the highest accreditation status awarded to institutions that excel in a broad area of academic discipline and enjoy prestige and authority comparable to that of international universities.

More than 20 years after her death in 1984, the two schools she founded and nurtured, are centers of excellence where students from poor families are given the hope and opportunity to improve their lives by way of education. Such was the legacy of Bai Matabay Namli Plang, the pioneering and one of the most successful scholar, educator and social worker the Magindanawn tribe has produced.
The Lady President

One of the country’s Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS), the first  lady president of the Mindanao State University (MSU) Nurhaylah “Emily” Marohombsar, was described by the Lions International as “erudite, bemedalled and exemplary among the crop of Muslim women.”

Gracing the cover of Woman’s Magazine, the beauteous lass from Ganassi, Lanao del Sur was hounded by talent scouts to join showbiz. Laughing it off, she returned to her province after graduating from Philippine Women’s University (PWU) and taught at MSU.

She started her career in education as a professor in English at the Mindanao State University (MSU). She rose thru the ranks to become president of the prestigious university.

As President, Emily persevered to make MSU one of the top schools of the country, producing topnotchers in the fields of business and engineering. She also opened the doors of the university to linkages abroad in the United States and the BIMP EAGA region, covering Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

After MSU, she continued to serve her country as the lone lady member of the government panel for the GRP-MILF Peace Talks. She was later appointed by President Arroyo to be a member of the Constitutional Commission, created by government to study the charter change.

For her achievements, she was conferred the ASEAN Gintong Ina Award , Sultan Kudarat Award for Most Outstanding Muslim Educator, Bangsamoro Woman of Distinction,  Outstanding Alumni by the East-West Alumni , among others.

Faysah Maniri Racman-Pimping Dumarpa is a three-term Representative of the first district of Lanao del Sur. Born in Marawi City, Rep. Dumarpa is married to Commissioner Salic B. Dumarpa. While more famous for the unfortunate incident at the cafeteria of Congress where she allegedly slapped a waitress for serving her pork, Rep. Dumarpa has a fine record of legislative work. She currently chairs the Committee on Social Services and is vice-chair of the Committee on Muslim Affairs.

In the current Congress, she has sponsored bills focusing on the establishment of a Moro Cultural Heritage Center, the expansion of the Shari'ah Court System in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the prohibition of religious and racial profiling against indigenous cultural communities and other local bills for the improvement of her district.

Faysah, who graduated with a Master's degree in Anthropology at the Centro Escolar University, started her life at public service teaching at the Pangarungan Islamic College where she also finished her BS Education degree. She then held the post of ARMM Undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development before being elected to the Regional Legislative Assembly in 1993.

Quiet force behind the Ulama

Aleema Khadijah Imam Mutilan, widow of the late Dr. Mahid Mutilan of the Ulama League of the Philippines, was the strongest supporter of the influential Muslim religious leader. Not much is known about the Aleema, since she has deliberately kept a low profile in Marawi.  

Aleema Khadijah, a graduate of the Al Azhar Unveristy of Cairo, helped institutionalize women's participation in the ulama organization of Lanao. The ulama (Muslim religious scholars and leaders) are considered most influential in Muslim society.  She organized the Nisa Ul-Islam, a group of aleema or women graduates of Islamic theology. The group was vital in pushing for the Islamization of the communities as it started holding Islamic seminars in public places, involving more professionals , who were schooled in Western education.

She also supervised the political participation of women in the OMPIA movement, the Marawi-based Islamic political party that catapulted Mahid Mutilan to mayorship for two terms and the governorship of Lanao del Sur, wresting power from the traditional elites.

Mahid Mutilan’s major accomplishment is institutionalizing the madaris (Islamic schooling) system not only in ARMM but also in non – ARMM areas.

Khadijah helped Mahid lobby for government support for the Islamic schools, especially in providing salaries for madaris teachers.

With the untimely death of Dr. Mutilan, Aleema Cadidia is seen as a quiet force keeping the OMPIA together to pursue the vision of her late husband. During the First National Ulama Summit held last January, the 25 aleema participants from Mindanao turned to her for leadership as she guided their discussions towards how the aleema can help peace and development in conflict-torn Bangsamoro homeland.

Khadijah was  conferred a royal title,  “baialabi ko pata pangampong ko Ranaw”, in recognition of her efforts to help her people.  
Muslim intellectual and Moro mujahideen

Absent in the story-telling about the March 1968 Jabidah Massacre are the women behind the resulting Moro rebel fronts that were organized. It was but fitting that the marker placed by Mindanao groups that commemorated the event in Corregidor last March 18 was written by a woman. Djalia Hataman of Basilan writes, "this controversial incident sparked the Bangsamoro struggle for national self-determination which cause is sanctified by hundreds and thousands of lives of Moro men, women and children…. This marker serves as a remembrance and a beacon for us living to continue the struggle for justice that their deaths would not be lost in vain."

One such woman became the pillar and strength of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as she founded the Bangsamoro Women Committee, a support arm of the MNLF. Eleonora Rowaida Tan-Misuari or Roi to her comrades joined the armed movement as a woman-member of the Central Committee of the MNLF.  Roi, who witnessed the inhumane impact of war, adamantly believed in the Bangsamoro movement as a catalyst in achieving social development for the Bangsamoro people, although she was open to diplomatic approaches  that could help build institutional change. She believed in laying the groundwork for social justice by reforming the Moro cultural institutions and rectifying historical and political inequities.

Roi has always been an organizer,  a force behind MNLF chairman Nur Misuari. Behind Misuari's fiery and charismatic presence that galvanized thousands to believe in a Bangsamoro nation in the '80s was this low-key intellectual, an AB Political Science and MA Asian Studies graduate of the State University, who drafted and typed his speeches.

Two months after the historic signing of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) on September 2, (1996) Roi organized the Bangsamoro Women Foundation for Peace and Development, Inc. (BMWFPDI). Roi believed that empowering Moro women was necessary to help them cope from the trauma of war. The foundation has become the umbrella organization of Bangsamoro women who have dedicated their lives to improving the welfare of the widows, orphans, homeless, and displaced.

Muslim Democrat  

In 2007, Amina Rasul received the Muslim Democrat of the Year Award from the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a Washington-based think tank. The Muslim Democrat of the Year award is given by CSID to one outstanding advocate for democracy in the Muslim world; particular those individuals who overcome hardships or challenges in his/her efforts to promote democracy. The award, with a distinguished list of recipients including former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, recognizes Amina’s life-long advocacy for democracy and peace in Muslim Mindanao.

She has been a Commissioner with the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, a board director of the Philippine National Oil Corporation and the Development Bank of the Philippines. She is the first Muslim woman member of the Philippine Cabinet, appointed by former President Fidel V. Ramos, as Presidential Advisor on Youth Affairs.  Appointed concurrently as the first Chair of the National Youth Commission, she was responsible for organizing the new agency and for the formulation and implementation of the Philippine Medium-Term Youth Development Plan (MTYDP).  The Philippine MTYDP was acknowledged by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) as one of the best practices in the preparation of youth development plans.  Vietnam invited her to help them establish their own youth development program.  She managed the growth of the NYC as an institution from an unknown agency with a budget of P18 million to a highly regarded national policy oriented body with a budget of P140 million.  

Amina has the distinction of speaking for the Group of 77 during the United Nations’ 10th anniversary of the International Youth Year in 1995. As Presidential Advisor on Youth Affairs of the Philippines, she focused attention the plight of vulnerable and disadvantaged youth, including those in areas of conflict, foreign-occupied or alien-dominated territories, refugee and displaced youth, indigenous youth and those with disabilities were of particular concern to the international community.

Passionate about giving the Moros an effective voice in mainstream society, Amina organized the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) in 2002 together with former Human Rights Commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic and the late Abraham Iribani, former MNLF spokesperson.  Concerned about the false and negative image projected about Muslims in the media, she initiated the Moro Times, the first supplement devoted to Muslim and Mindanao issues published by a national newspaper. Amina is able to muster foreign and local support for Mindanao concerns such as human rights, Islamic law, Islamic education, empowering the ulama and Muslim women.  She has written and edited several books on the Muslim situation in the Philippines and is a columnist for the Manila Times.
Champion for Muslim Women’s Rights

Marie Claire Magazine named civil society advocate Yasmin Busran-Lao  as among the top 25 “Women of Substance” for her pioneering work in promoting Muslim women’s rights. The US Embassy has conferred on Yasmin the Ninoy Aquino Public Service Award for her indefatigable work in advancing the rights of marginalized groups.

Yasmin founded Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, Inc. (AMDF) in Marawi City which was inspired by a Qur’anic (verse 58) Al-Mujadilah which either means “ The Women who pleads” or “ The Women who Seeketh ( justice).”  ‘AMDF’s main advocacy is seeking social justice and working on issues related to women’s rights, good governance and peace building.

AMDF  has produced pioneering publications such as the Primer on Code of Muslim Personal Laws and the CEDAW primer in four Moro dialects.  Yasmin is also the second nominee of the ABANSE PINAY party list organization.   
Labor leader and humanitarian

Bai Fatima Palileo Sinsuat is the remarkable daughter of the late strongman Datu Blah Sinsuat.  Not content to be a pampered Maguindanao princess, she helped her father organize labor.  In 1986, all dockworkers in Cotabato City port were members of the Progressive Labor Union (PLU), which she headed. PLU members reported that Bai Fatima would give money in times of family emergencies and  bail laborers out of jail.  

She was mayor of Upi, Maguindanao from 1980 to 1986 before her appointment as Head of the ARMM Board of Investments.  She was appointed a member of the UP BOARD OF Regents member by President Estrada and stayed fro three terms.  A pillar of the Philippine national Red Cross in Maguindanao for the last 30 years, Bai Fatima is the first Muslim woman elected to the national board of the Philippine National Red Cross.  She was  chosen by the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency as one of the country’s six outstanding volunteers in 2003.

Sinsuat, 67, was lauded for her blood donation advocacy programs at the awarding ceremony held last December 10, 2003 at Malacañang Palace.
The Communicator

Moro Times Managing Editor Samira Gutoc, 33, believes in the power of media to promote a positive image of the Moro. She has founded publications such as Suara Kabataan, the Mindanao State University Law Gazette and Arellano Law and Policy Review and is one of the pioneering writers of, a Philippine Web Awardee.  Samira’s writings have been published nationally (Newsbreak, PDI, PCIJ) and internationally.   

As a youth leader, she was the first lady to become president of the UP Muslim Students Association, the Muslim Youth and Students Alliance (MYSA) and executive vice president of the 1st National Youth Parliament. She is one of the founding convenors of the Young Moro Professionals Network which aims to bridge the information divide between the mainstream and the minorities.

At the age of 26, Samira was recognized as the first Muslim lady to receive The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) 2001 by the Jaycees International for Youth in Socio-Cultural Development . Awarded the Chevening Fellowship, she studied at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies.   
Moro Student Activist  

"To see the Moros succeed and excel in various fields, to prove that we too can excel and to see the Moro brethren live out of poverty and conflict."  So proclaimed Shahana “Shan” Abdulwahid, a Sama from Zamboanga City.  She is the first Muslim-Filipino to hold the presidency of the University of the Philippines Student Council (UPSC).

Abdulwahid, who is currently taking up MA in Islamic Studies at UP, is a devout Muslimah (Muslim woman); Islam is the basis of everything she does.  “Whatever I do is based on the principles of Islam, and I am upholding Islamic teachings,” adds Abdulwahid in an interview with the Moro Times. She kept her hijab (head covering) on, even as she campaigned.  

Described by those who know her as “humble and quiet”, “makamasa”, “radical” and “intelligent”, the second child of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid and Naida Edding Abdulwahid graduated cum laude from UP in 2006 and was a recipient of the Prince Salman Scholarship Grant. In 2005, she was cited as one of the 50 Young Achievers.  Shan also received the President Macapagal-Arroyo Leadership Award in 2001.

Anti War Poster Girl  

Articulate and adamant, she is often interviewed while mobilizing demonstrations.  Amirah Ali “Mek-Mek” Lidasan, 33,  continues the activism she displayed as a leader of the student movement in Manila.   She was elected the first Muslim lady president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) after her stint as president of the University of the Philippines Mass Communications Student Council.  

A native of Parang, Maguindanao, Mek-mek belongs to the Iranon Muslim ethno-linguistic group. Her family is one of the most influential families in Maguindanao province. She, however, grew up in Manila where she took up her elementary to college education.

Even as a child, Mek-mek would hold discussions with the mujahideen (women fighters) whenever she would go to Maguindanao for vacation. This exposure helped her understand their lives and the essence of what the Moros are fighting for.

She later co-founded the Moro Christian People’s Alliance, working for the welfare of the minorities. Entering politics, she became the National Vice-Chairperson of the Suara Bangsamoro Party List Organization.  She has been traveling here and abroad to gain media mileage of the human rights violations in Sulu, Basilan and Central Mindanao. In March 2007, she was part of a Philippine human rights delegation which toured North America and Europe, drawing international attention to the human rights crisis at home.
Defender of the Boat People  

Mucha Shim Arquiza of Sulu advocates for the rights of the Bajaus and Sama,  two of the more marginalized Moro ethno-linguistic based in Zamboanga, Sulu, Basilan and TawiTawi. The Moro beggars seen in Metromanila are mostly Bajau escaping from a harsh life in Mindanao.  

She organized a Zamboanga City-based foundation called Lumah Ma Dilaut (house in the sea) with the slogan, “Lost Language, Banished People “ to enable the Bajau to access services such as livelihood programs.

Arquiza, who also dabbles in writing poetry and literary essays, promotes the arts of the Sama and Bajaus.  Mucha says, “ in promoting indigenous knowledge systems and practices and in modeling appropriate and empowering education program for reviving the spiritual and cultural energies of Sama ethnic communities is nonetheless a self-fulfillment for its mostly Muslim staff as their own personal jihad and a contribution to a favorable da’wah environment.“

She holds the distinction of being the lone Moro woman to address the 10th Session of the Working Group on Minorities by the United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland in March 2004. She was former secretary general of the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN), an Asia-wide network of Muslims working for human rights, peace and social justice through inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue. She is also the Executive Director and senior researcher for an all-woman, mostly-Moroland (an indigenous community in the Philippines) research collective. The aim of the organization (HAGS, Inc.) is to work towards indigenous women’s empowerment.

Protector of the Lake  

Omera Dianalan- Lucman, 59,  was the first Muslim lady to be appointed Undersecretary. Serving the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)  in 2001-2004, Omera oversaw the delivery of services to the Mindanao region.  Prior to DSWD, she was  a Member of Board of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) in 1993.      As an administrator representing Mindanao, she caused the formulation of responsive policies in support to the sustainable development of cooperatives in Mindanao owing to the massive economic agricultural programs implemented in the island.

She obtained her College  Bachelor of Science in Business Administration,   Major in Management and Banking and Finance at the Philippine Women’s University and  Master in Business Management  at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute.

After her stint in government, she led the formation of  the Philippine Muslim Women Council, a federation of Muslim women groups  across the country.   Mobilizing local and international support, Omera has committed herself to the protection of  Lake Lanao, which she believes should be named a World Heritage Site as it is one of the ancient lakes in the world.   
The First Muslim Woman Ambassador

Ma. Corazon Yap-Bahjin was born to a small and frugal family in Jolo, Sulu. Cora's links to the Tausug came from her grandmothers and her late husband, Datu Samsuddin Bahjin of Patikul, Sulu.   She graduated cum laude at the University of Santo Tomas in 1967, co-major in English and Theology. The latter never fails to raise eyebrows whenever people learn that Bahjin is a Muslim. "Senator Enrile was surprised when I told him so," Bahjin recounted. In 1974 Bahjin obtained her Master of Arts, major in Social Studies, at the University of the Philippines.

Before embarking on a diplomatic career, Bahjin was an educator. She taught at the Holy Trinity College in Palawan (1967), at the Centro Escolar University (1972), then the Palawan State University where she eventually became an Assistant Professor. Ambassador Bahjin rose from the ranks. She started out as acting director of the Cultural Division of the Office of Islamic Affairs (now the Office on Muslim Affairs) in 1982. She had her first assignment abroad as Vice Consul in Jeddah in 1986. She went back to Manila in 1998 to become a director of the Office of Middle East and African Affairs. In 1990 she served as Second Secretary and Consul in Amman, Jordan. In 1991 she was moved to Cairo, Egypt where a year later she became the Charge d' Affaires.  Cora has also served in Bangkok and Beijing. She became the first Muslim lady to be appointed Ambassador in 2007 and later Undersecretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

At the center of her public service is her faith. Bahjin always keeps a Qur'an in her office. Every morning before she begins her routine she would open to Sura Yasin and read to calm her mind and for guidance.  

Not just a first lady

Bai Sandra Sinsuat Ampatuan Sema is the first lady of Cotabato City, married to its Mayor, Muslimen Sema. It is a position that she takes seriously. As City Tourism Head of Cotabato and Regional Tourism Chairman of Region 12, she has presided over projects intended to preserve Muslim traditions. At the same time, she sought to change the image of her city through her projects like the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival which was included as one of the country's tourist destinations on the Department of Tourism calendar of festivals upon her advocacy.

She values her traditions as a Muslim woman and passionately believes that the young should be taught the same. This same principle guided her stint as ARMM Education Secretary, appointed by Misuari, where she pushed for the integration of the teaching of the Arabic language in ARMM schools. Bai Sandra, a leader among the MNLF women, was later appointed the first Muslim DEPED Undersecretary by President Arroyo to manage the development of madrasah education.
Mother of war victims

Baicon Cayongcat-Macaraya, 36, began working with victims of the war after giving up her law studies in Marawi City during the all-our-war in nearby Baloi, Butig and other parts of Central Mindanao in 2000.

Now she serves as a Philippine officer of the World Food Program of the United Nations helping thousands access basic services. Her public profile began early in college as the first woman to be elected student regent of the Mindanao State University System. She later founded a non-government organization, the Bangsamoro Youth Ranao Center for Peace and Development, which oversaw the daily needs of thousands of evacuees staying in schools. Her organization tied up with Tabang Mindanao and pioneered the Integration Return and Rehabilitation Program to help displaced families get back on their feet. Later, her group handled the reconstruction of about 500 houses, six mosques and five schools destroyed by the fighting in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

For her work in the communities , local datus conferred on  Baicon the title, Bai Labi Ko Shakba, in ceremonies held at Ditsaan Ramain, Lanao del Sur. She helped organize innovative campaigns such as the Mothers for Peace Campaign and hosted the Peaceteach, a tele-conference for young people organized the United Nations Children’s Fund and its allied partners.She is also a model of Modess’ Aim High Pinay campaign.
Muslimah Dean of Islamic Studies

Dr. Carmen Abubakar has served the academe most of her life,  believing that teaching is a profession that fulfills her because it allows her to nurture young minds. Carmen knows that the core of the Bangsamoro problem is rooted in the need for knowledge.  She is  the only Muslim woman to be appointed Dean in the prestigious University of the Philippines (UP), heading the UP  Institute of Islamic Studies for three terms.    

Born in Jolo, Sulu, Abubakar finished her Bachelor’s Degree in Education at the Notre Dame of Jolo College . She started teaching at her alma mater, before going to UP Diliman to finish an MA in Education. She then taught English at the high school department of UP Baguio before heading back to Diliman to earn a Ph.D. in Philippine Studies.

Abubakar said that the educational situation in Muslim communities is “very poor,” as shown even in the low levels of literacy in the ARMM. According to her, this implies that the number of people who make enlightened and informed decisions is also very low.

Stressing education as the fuel for development, Abubakar said that education has to be made more accessible to the people especially in the rural areas, and this must be addressed by the government. She said “quality education is impossible to attain, if there is an absence of infrastructural support.”

A sought after lecturer on Islamic law here and abroad, Carmen co-wrote a book on “The Convention on the Rights of the Child and Islamic Law, Convergences and Divergences: The Philippine Case, 2005” published by the UNICEF.
Voice of Courage

Maguindanao's Noraida Adang Abdullah Karim delivered the keynote address in New York for receiving the "Voices of Courage" award in 2007. The award is given annually by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children to individuals or organizations from around the world that have shown commitment to and leadership in promoting the well-being of displaced women and children.

Noraida, an internally displaced person herself, is also the coordinator of the Food Assistance Project for conflict-affected communities in Maguindanao that CFSI is carrying out in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP). She played a leading role in the Literacy, Livelihood, and Food Sufficiency Project for women and male youth that CFSI field-tested for the World Bank. She also headed the "Arms are for Hugging" project that initiated the rebuilding of an elementary school in Inug-ug, Maguindanao in 2002.  

She was born in Cotabato City and spent most of her formative years in Datu Piang in Maguindanao, Mindanao, Philippines. Her childhood and youth were marked by poverty, repeated displacement due to armed conflict in Mindanao, and a determined desire to survive. Karim spent years assisting other displaced Muslims in Metro Manila, organizing to meet basic needs, and advocating for peace negotiations in Mindanao. The Peace Agreement of 1996 set the stage for her return to Mindanao. She became involved with local civil society organizations concerned with human rights; advocated for the relief of displaced persons, and initiated livelihood projects for poor women. She returned to school in her native Cotabato City and obtained a Social Work degree at De La Vida College in 1999.

Here comes the judge  

Nurkarhati Salapuddin Sahibbil was one of the thousands of devout young Muslim girls educated in the Catholic Notre Dame of Jolo.  Graduating magna cum laude, AB English, she never thought she would be thrust into a controversial position.  She was happy to be wife and mother of six, working with the Jolo Shariah Court as a Clerk of Court from 1985 to 1993 to help support the family.   

However, Nurkarhati has always been strong-willed and a fighter for rights and justice. Not content to merely document cases and decisions, she took the Shariah bar exam in 1991 and passed.  She then applied to be a Shariah court  judge.  This created a controversy.  Many Muslim men in the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) objected to a woman being appointed judge.  Nurkarhati, however, is a formidable advocate who does not give up easily.  She is known to be the matriarch of her clan whose quiet word is followed.  Against all odds, she was appointed in 1994 and became the first Muslimah judge with the Shariah court system.  

Nurkarhati is looking forward to the implementation of the Shariah system in all Muslim communities, as promised in the 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement.   She laments the lack of access of most Muslims to an Islamic court and their lack of knowledge of their rights and obligations. (From the March 28, 2008 issue of the Moro Times, a monthly supplement of The Manila Times. Reprinted with permission from Moro Times editor in chief Amina Rasul).