Remarks by Gloria Steele, Mission Director: Launching of the Women, Peace and Security Project

Thursday, February 6, 2014

[As Prepared]


Ms. Josefina Tan, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Miriam College

Prof. Aurora Javate de Dios, Executive Director, Women and Gender Institute

Leaders of the Women’s Peace Table Network: Ms. Irene M. Santiago, Mindanao Commission on Women; Ms. Amina Rasul, Philippine Council on Islam and Democracy; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, St. Scholastica’s College; Prof. Socorro Reyes, International Center for Legislative Development; and Ms. Margie Moran, Habitat for Humanity,

Our civil society partners -- Mindanao Commission on Women, Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, Noorus Salam, Al Mujadilah Development Foundation and other potential partners,

Members of the diplomatic corps and the donor community,

Officers and students of Miriam College, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good afternoon everyone! I am delighted to be back at my alma mater to launch, on behalf of USAID, this important undertaking, the Women, Peace and Security Project that aims to increase women’s participation in peacebuilding, peace negotiation and peace advocacy in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

As we all know, women play a significant role in keeping the peace in our societies. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed out that , “a growing body of evidence shows that women offer unique contributions to making and keeping the peace-- and that those contributions lead to better outcomes not just for women but for entire societies.”

USAID experience, through its work in conflict affected areas in the Philippines and in other parts of the world, has proven that women are effective peace advocates, community leaders and champions of civil and human rights, and have made a significant contribution in peace negotiation tables.

This is one of the driving forces why the U.S. Government under President Obama developed the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in December 2011, in support of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The goal is as simple as it is profound: “to empower half of the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence and insecurity.” The Philippines was the first country in Asia to have a National Action Plan in 2010.

USAID’s Women Peace and Security Project supports our long-term strategy to improve peace and stability in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. The project is a result of a series of consultations with women involved in peace negotiations and peace processes. It was inspired by efforts of the Women's Peace Table, a network of women's groups working to ensure women's voices are heard in the peace process and to infuse gender perspectives in peace negotiations. It also seeks to highlight what women deem as critical for successful post-peace agreement, and reconstruction and recovery efforts.

The Women, Peace and Security Project will support and sustain the efforts of the Women's Peace Table which, as Irene Santiago presented earlier, is a connecting table between formal peace negotiations and women in communities affected by war; a mediating table, surfacing women's experiences of conflict and peace, and enabling women to participate actively and meaningfully in all levels of the peace process; and lastly, an educating table to raise awareness and advocate for an inclusive peace agreement.

Such work is fundamental, because lasting peace is only possible if the voices of women are heard, their contributions acknowledged and participation ensured. While the Framework Agreement signed in October 2012 opened an opportunity for women in Mindanao, particularly as it guarantees the participation and protection of women in conflict-affected areas, much still needs to be done.

Our hope is that USAID's two-year project to be implemented in six conflict-affected areas in Mindanao: Jolo, Southern Basilan, Isabela, Zamboanga City, Cotabato City and Marawi City and their surrounding areas, will help achieve the following objectives: 1) increase the involvement of women in peace processes by scaling-up Women Peace Tables that will ensure that the Basic Law on Bangsa Moro is gender-responsive; 2) capacitate women in peace negotiations, peace-building and peace advocacy; and 3) develop replicable and localized community- based strategies to implement the Philippine National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in cooperation with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

We are fortunate to be joined here by women leaders who are our important partners in the pursuit of peace and security in Mindanao – the leaders of the Women Peace Table Network, the Muslim women leaders in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, the civil society leaders who are peace builders and peace advocates, and the representatives of donor organizations and diplomatic community.

As we continue to support the most gender equal nation in Asia, we look forward to building synergies with you as we work towards our shared goals of peace and security in conflict affected communities. I am confident that this partnership will be a success, because WAGI and its partners are champions of women, peace and security efforts and because this cause also enjoys the support of women leaders in the Philippines.

We look forward to a productive partnership that will help secure peace for women and men in the Philippines.

Thank you and Mabuhay!

Quezon City, Metro Manila
Issuing Country