MARAWI CITY (25 September 2023) – Even in situations of conflict, women have shown that they can be an integral part of the solution.

This is because women seize opportunities to become economically self-sufficient and support their families despite being situated in conflict-vulnerable and conflict-affected communities.

And with the right training, investment, and support networks, women have demonstrated, time and again, that they can thrive as entrepreneurs and business owners who are capable of earning sustainable incomes for themselves and their families.

In an interview, Raisah, a cooperative member, shared that the women living at the Lakeview Transitory Shelter have become instrumental in caring and providing for their families, particularly during times of crisis, often stepping outside traditional domestic roles in order to fend for their loved ones.

Economic empowerment, she said, has been critical for women to chart the course of their future and achieve their full potential as entrepreneurs.

“Meron kaming cooperative. Twelve kami [na miyembro]. Tumagal ang cooperative namin ng two years. Grocery, pero sari-sarili lang ‘yun namin, mga friends o member ng [Infantry] Division. Bali, nagbigay kami ng Php1,000 each, Php 12,000 ‘yun [lahat]. Ni-rolling namin yun. Kami, wala kaming leader. May pagkakaisa kami and then nakaya din namin. Kayang-kaya naman namin,” Raisah related.

“Kami, ang challenge namin, dapat magkaroon ng cooperative na makatulong sa mga mahihirap. Kunwari, ‘yung anak niya walang pamasahe, pwede siyang humiram sa amin. Kung wala silang maiulam, pwede silang umutang sa amin. Sa hirap ng buhay dito sa shelter, nandito ang cooperative para tumulong,” she said.

Despite not being a registered cooperative, Raisah said its members have gained greater economic independence, while helping residents who are most in need of financial assistance.

For Muslimah, a community leader and a mother of three, life has been difficult in the three years of living in the shelter. The longer they stayed in the shelter, the less assistance they received.

“May anak na po ako. Nag-aaral po siya sa Angoyan National Highschool. Meron po akong isang high school at dalawang elementary [student]. Okay naman po. Nakakaya naman po. Kaya nga lang po pagka sabay-sabay po ang pag-aaral, mabigat po. Lalo na po ‘yung asawa ko na sa construction lang po siya [nagtatrabaho],” she shared.

But despite these struggles, her family has remained resilient, as well as other residents who look forward to the day when their community will develop and prosper.

“Okay naman po kami dito. Lagi kaming nagkakaisa dito, wala namang gulo. Maayos naman po ‘yung pakikitungo namin sa bawat isa,” shared Muslimah.

Muslimah once lived in ‘Ground Zero.’ However, with the implementation of the compensation law for Marawi’s residents, she applied for a permanent housing unit which is now being processed.

Home is where the heart is

Meanwhile, for Janisah, she looks forward to returning to her home in Ground Zero.

“Di ako nag-apply [sa housing project] kasi makakabalik na ako sa West Marinaut, Ground Zero. Hinihintay lang namin na maibigay ang sinasabi nilang ipapasa ang papeles namin. Sabi, babayaran yung bahay at laman,” she explained.

When asked about what peace means to them, Raisah and Janisah said that peace means having their family together even in the face of difficulties.

“Ang kapayapaan po ay ‘yung magkasama po kami ng pamilya ko kahit mahirap basta magkasama,” said Janisah.

“Walang gulo. Mabuting pagsasama dito sa community po namin at makapag-aral ang mga bata,” remarked Raisah.

Raisah and Janisah are members of the “Nagsisikap Para sa Lahat,” the only unregistered cooperative operating in the community.

Strong, hard-working and resilient, these women have shown their capacity to help bring socioeconomic development to their communities, while advocating for peace, reconciliation and unity to their people.

However, the key to the continued improvement of their socioeconomic conditions is to empower them as entrepreneurs and leaders in their areas.

Repairing the torn social fabric of society

Six years after the Marawi Siege, which destroyed billions worth of property and claimed countless lives, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), with the aid of its local and international peace partners, has been helping to repair the torn social fabric of society in Marawi and in neighboring communities.

Through its Social Healing and Peacebuilding Office or SHAPE, the OPAPRU held a series of peace conversations here in this once conflict-stricken city as part of its peacebuilding efforts in the area.

Aside from helping to rebuild the lives of residents who were affected by the siege, the peace conversations sought to encourage people to continue supporting the agency’s peacebuilding interventions in their communities.

Since peace conversations were held here in the city, its residents, particularly women and young people, have shown their capacity to play active roles as peacemakers, mediators, and peacebuilders.

These peace dialogues have encouraged open, participatory discussions on key issues relating to the peoples’ aspirations as individuals, as well as for their families and communities. They create a space where information and first-hand testimonies are shared in a safe-space.

In the coming months, the SHAPE Program will be conducting more peace-themed workshops and trainings in Marawi to promote the culture of peace, mutual understanding and solidarity among residents.

The weeklong series of peace conversations in Marawi is part of the celebration of National Peace Consciousness Month with the theme, “Kapayapaan: Responsibilidad ng Bawat Mamamayan,” a clarion call for all Filipinos’ to play an active role in the country’s peacebuilding process. ###