Gender, Peace and Development in Southern Philippines (GENPEACE) is a literacy program for girls and women that is helping build a culture of peace in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
Supported by UNESCO-Jakarta, the program has generated a region-wide network of community-run radio stations that broadcast, in the people’s own languages or dialects, information on community and local government affairs. Basic services like literacy education, reproductive health, gender issues, livelihood support, peace initiatives and other significant topics suited to their particular communities are also discussed. Various sectors in the community are given the opportunity to express their views, thereby allowing for a broad discussion that brings the community into the decision-making process.
GenPeace is implemented in five regions in Mindanao, namely, Regions 9, 10, 11, and 12 and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It has two components. One is a community-driven, non-formal education and literacy program. The community determines what program design is best suited to their needs. Modules include functional literacy for level 0-3 learners, and continuing education for functionally literate out-of-school youth and adults. All classes integrate peace education and are gender- and culture-sensitive.
Two is the community radio station. GenPeace provides radio equipment, capability-building training workshops and other technical needs. The local government units (LGUs) provide counterpart funds, the site and maintenance support. A Community Media and Education Council, composed of representatives from various sectors is organized and trained to manage the radio component. It relies mainly on a volunteer broadcast staff.
SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERISM
Among those on-board for the morning news and community affairs program at Upi’s dxUP-FM (in Maguindanao province) is 23-year-old Baimon Abdullah, a dedicated Muslim volunteer who is also a full-time Instructional Manager at the town’s out-of-school youth literacy program. She works two slots on the daily radio board: a news program and one devoted to education and values. When classes are out, she is more than willing to fill up five slots on the board, or serve as a roving reporter.
Her friend Nancy Lawan of the Teduray community reports for the early morning livelihood program, then is back in the evening for a program on tribal traditions – the only one in the country aired in her native Teduray dialect.
WOMEN OF SALAM RADIO
Women in the Islamic City of Marawi comprise about 60 percent of the broadcasters of dxSR-FM or Salam Radio, which means “peace.” They are accomplished professional women of the ethnic Maranao community, and their radio programs tackle topics long reserved for old men: Islamic teachings.
On the program Women in Islam, Dr. Mokiin Salic Malna, former MNLF woman fighter, talks about Maranao women’s historic role in the community as peace mediators, even in settling conflicts like “rido” or clan feuds. She holds a doctorate in education and is head of the ARMM Mindanao Commission on Women. She also heads the Community Media and Education Council that governs Salam Radio.
The women of Salam Radio also aim to promote the native culture of the Maranao, known as “the people of the lake.” “All aspects of Moro culture, including our poetry and songs, are highlighted and preserved,” explains Salic-Malna.
GOING TO NEW YORK
Pampay Usman of Katuli, Sultan Kudarat at age 60 travelled to New York in February 2003 to speak to UN agency officials and distinguished dignitaries and received a standing ovation from them. She had been invited to speak at the formal launching of the UN Literacy Decade.
Pampay, who had never been to school, was one of the outstanding graduates of an adult literacy course conducted under GenPeace. From being a model student, she has become one of the best teachers for the program’s literacy classes.
In her speech before the UN, delivered in English and later in Maguindanao, she said, “Today I am very happy because I was able to vote during the elections without being assisted by anyone. I can now choose, and vote, for the right candidate. I am now a leader in our neighborhood. All this happened because of the literacy class.”
Implementing agency is the Mindanao-based non-government organization, Notre Dame Foundation for Charitable Activities, Inc. – Women in Enterprise Development (NDFCAI-WED), with the technical assistance of the Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS). It has been replicated in the Government of the Philippines-United Nations Multi-Donor Program (GOP-UNMDP Phase III) and is also assisted by the Canadian International Development Agency-Local Government Support Programme (CIDA-LGSP).
According to Myrna Lim, Executive Director of NDFCAI-WED, “Our role in the foundation is to facilitate community ownership. This is the peace process in action – trust, open dialogue, and patience.”