Manila: The idea that a woman can mediate successfully between armed groups of hostile men, and that one of these groups comprises hardline, Shariah-touting Islamists, might seem far-fetched to traditional western societies. But not so in the Philippines, where not one but two women have taken the lead in resolving the long-running Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.
Teresita Quintos Deles, a former teacher, women’s rights advocate and anti-poverty tsar known popularly as ‘Ging’, was reappointed presidential adviser on the peace process by President Benigno Aquino in July, 2010. Since then, her steady and patient hand has guided the combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their government interlocutors towards a historic peace deal that both sides now regard as all but inevitable.
If one word sums up Deles’ approach, it is “inclusive”. Interviewed in her office in Manila, she speaks eloquently of the need to ensure that all those affected by the agreement, high and low, have ownership of the process. “As in all peace processes, there is a symbiotic relationship between the people on the ground and the negotiators,” she said. “Both parties are expected to deliver on that belief. We are creating a virtuous cycle, it is building. So we are hopeful we will get there.”
In a speech in Davao City on 4 February, Deles showed a very humane understanding of reconstruction and development issues in the Bangsamoro region, whose long-term resolution will be crucial if the peace deal is to stick.
“We all know that the areas [covered by the pact] remain the most underdeveloped communities in the country. Almost all indicators, from health to education to maternal and infant mortality and women’s participation, are lowest [there] . . .”
Guardian News & Media