Dressmakers as Allies in Promoting Women's Rights in Lanao del Sur, Philippines

Published: Mar 8, 2024 Reading time: 3 minutes
Gender Awareness Campaign conducted by the Marantao Women’s Dressmaking Service Cooperative
© Foto: Zenny Awing

Gender roles are often influenced by cultural and religious traditions, and often, these can vary among different communities and ethnic groups. The Maranaos are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group on the island of Mindanao. Traditionally, Maranao women are primary caregivers and homemakers responsible for managing household affairs. While women's roles in Muslim areas are evolving due to modernisation, education, and women's empowerment advocacies, traditional gender roles persist in some communities. The Marantao Women's Dressmaking Service Cooperative recognises that investing in awareness campaigns in remote areas can increase acceptance of women's rights and eradicate gender-based violence.

According to Nashiba P. Macabando, Chairperson of the cooperative, gender-based violence (GBV) is a problem in the Maranao community. The 2022 data from the Philippine National Police-Marantao (PNP) revealed that only two cases were officially reported in the area. In contrast, many others go unreported due to cultural norms and a lack of awareness about women's rights.

Consequently, the group decided to conduct an awareness campaign on gender equality funded under the Financial Support to Third Parties 1 (FSTP), one of the key components of the Strengthening Capacities of Civil Society in Caraga and BARMM for Good Governance project. The association aims to provide knowledge on women's rights to eradicate gender-based violence.

"Women have this eagerness to speak up but are hindered due to traditions and shame. With the FSTP 1, we thought that this would be a great opportunity to campaign about women's rights to help eradicate gender-based violence, especially in remote areas," Macabando said.

The Marantao Women partnered with the local government unit (LGU) of Marantao and the PNP to undergo gender awareness training. They participated in a seminar-workshop focused on gender sensitivity, violence against women and children, the Bawal Bastos Law (Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act), and referral pathways. Following the training, they conducted an awareness campaign that focused on areas that any agencies had not yet reached.

Have a look at a video from one of the events:

"We discovered that any agencies have not reached several areas due to distance and other circumstances. We mapped out these areas and diversified our target audiences to include women, youth, mixed groups, and even farmers, who predominantly consist of men, to cover all sectors," said Asliah P. Abdullah, bookkeeper of Marantao Women's Dressmaking Association.

Far-aliah Ampuan, a participant in the campaign, mentioned that the programme provided an excellent platform for women to learn about their legal rights. She also noted that it became a safe space for women to speak up and interact since most of the topics and examples covered were relatable to them.

Far-aliah Ampuan noted that "the campaign proved to be highly effective. I found the discussion on referral pathways particularly valuable as it broadened our understanding of whom to approach for reporting, especially if one feels uncomfortable with official channels. The speakers highlighted that we could go to our Ulama (scholars of Islamic doctrine and law) or Datus (chiefs, sovereign princes, and monarchs among Indigenous People). They provided us with new knowledge while ensuring it aligns with our Maranao and Muslim traditions, which is deeply respectful."

The Marantao Women's group drafted a resolution emphasising the necessity of conducting additional awareness campaigns in the remote areas of Lanao del Sur. The resolution has been submitted to the local government unit (LGU) of Marantao, which enabled the association to gain accreditation in a local special body and become a part of the gender and development planning.

"We never knew that as dressmakers, we could also become advocates, especially for a cause that focuses on women's empowerment. With the partnership that we have with the LGU and the PNP, we hope that we can continue what we have started," Nashiba said.

The Marantao Women's Dressmaking Service Cooperative is one of the 34 CSOs that have received a sub-grant under FSTP 1, aimed at supporting their Strategic Action Plan priorities. The grant supports activities that strengthen the organisational capacity and programmatic initiatives of the CSOs.

This project is funded by the European Union and implemented by People in Need Philippines, Balay Mindanao Foundation Inc., and Maranao People Development Center Inc.

Autor: Zenny Awing

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