Partnering for peace: giving indigenous women a voice in The Philippines
Froilyn Mendoza is the head of the Teduray-Lambangian Women’s Organisation (TLWOI), one of our partner organisations working in the Philippines. A key focus of TLWOI is to support the sustainable environmental development of the region, while respecting and promoting the indigenous cultures and rights of the Téduray and Lambangian women. Froilyn is the sole representative of the Teduray tribe in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
Froilyn travelled to London earlier this year to take part in our three-day workshop on partnerships, and we asked her about her partnership journey with us.
In the beginning
Conciliation Resources’ partnership with TLWOI started in 2011. Froilyn first met Kristian Herbolzheimer, Conciliation Resources’ Colombia and Philippines Programme Director, while he was visiting the Philippines as a member of the International Contact Group for the Mindanao peace negotiations.
Conciliation Resources arranged a learning visit to Colombia for Filipino indigenous women to learn more about peacebuilding issues. Froilyn was able to learn from grassroots organisations about how they were working to include voices of indigenous women in peace processes. Conciliation Resources and TLWOI then began working in partnership together. Froilyn says:
It was [in the Philippines] that we got talking about the similar experiences of exclusion faced by indigenous women in the Philippines and Colombia...Our joint project is about how to bring in the voices of indigenous women so it was important that they were involved from the start.
This work involved consultations between members of Conciliation Resources and TLWOI, but also wider community consultations. Because the formal peace process in Mindanao usually involves only the participation of elites, TLWOI wanted as many indigenous women as possible to be involved in discussions. As Froilyn comments:
Our partnership with Conciliation Resources is an accompaniment. They are not in the forefront, speaking on our behalf. Instead they provide a platform for indigenous people so they can speak for themselves.
Building skills for peace
For Froilyn and the other women in TLWOI, training and capacity building has been central to the partnership:
Working with Conciliation Resources has given me invaluable skills and confidence. It has provided me, and other indigenous women, with a platform to actively participate in the peace process.
Conciliation Resources has worked with women across Mindanao to build their confidence in speaking about their experiences during the conflict and as peacebuilders. During anniversary celebrations of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in New York, Froilyn joined Conciliation Resources to speak about the specific struggles faced by indigenous women in the Philippines.
We have now become less afraid to talk about our rights. We are now confident in being interviewed by the media, and presenting our views to the public. This work has enabled the voice of indigenous groups to be heard and our rights to be included in the peace agreement.
Key to successful partnership
Froilyn explained that for her, the three most important things for a successful partnership are trust, flexibility and an appreciation of the local partner’s knowledge. One of the things that she said made Conciliation Resources different to other organisations is that they understood the value of learning from partners about the realities of the context:
Trust is very important during challenging times. Honesty on both ends helps us to be constructive when dealing with difficulties and problems...Conciliation Resources values the views of indigenous women, even if they have no education.
Froilyn feels Conciliation Resources’ flexibility has been beneficial to the TLWOI as an organisation which is still developing and learning new skills. She appreciates the fact that there is room to adapt programmes depending on the skills and needs of individual partners, and flexibility in planning to adapt to new developments and challenges in the context.