Motivating Women Affected by Armed Conflict to Become Peacebuilders

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Aug 20, 2020
by Jamila-Aisha P. Sanguila
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Motivating Women Affected by Armed Conflict to Become Peacebuilders

Salzburg Global Fellow Jamila-Aisha P. Sanguila reflects on the work of Women Empowered to Act for Dialogue and Peace (WE Act) A group of women take part in a training session on basic community dialogue facilitation (Picture supplied by Jamila-Aisha P. Sanguila)

Three years ago, on May 23, 2017, the ISIS-affiliated Maute group attacked the city of Marawi. The fighting between the government forces and the Maute group, which lasted for five months, caused serious devastation, destroying the physical, biological, and environmental components of the whole city. The violence resulted in the loss of lives of innocent people, damaged properties, and displaced and traumatized thousands of civilians.

Marawi is the capital of Lanao del Sur and home to the Maranao people, one of the Muslim groups of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines and now part of the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The ruins of the Marawi siege left a lifetime of trauma, scars, and wounds that will not easily mend.

Mending broken relationships between the Muslim and Christian populace is one of the tasks taken on by Women Empowered to Act for Dialogue and Peace (WE Act). This Marawi-based small organization started its work after the crisis. A network of friends, volunteers, and donations made it possible for WE Act to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) still living in temporary shelters.

WE Act uplifts the lives of displaced families by providing women economic opportunities and training to build bridges of understanding and peace in the community. It also supports multiple efforts to empower women affected by the armed conflict and prioritizes the need for building the capacities of these women through seminar and training workshops.

The work of WE Act has helped me identify four ways to motivate women affected by armed conflict to become active peacebuilders in their communities.

  1. Provide affirmation. Emphasize women should have a greater appreciation of themselves. Gentle encouragement will result in women having a positive and fresh outlook in life, and they will actively contribute to the betterment of the community as a whole;
  2. Design all-women training. Design a training workshop that is exclusively for women. This design will give the women participants a safe space to express themselves, talk about difficult and sensitive issues, and have a meaningful dialogue with other women;
  3. Choose the right venue. In my experience, having a more relaxing venue like the seaside and or nature resort encourages women participants to participate fully. They all experienced trauma and lived in temporary shelters for quite a long time; they will surely appreciate a little break from the usual everyday life.
  4. Involve men. Men play a big role in empowering women. When men understand what the women are doing and or advocating, they will support and even motivate their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters to participate. Invite men to join in, welcome them, and conceptualize a training workshop that works for both men and women.

Believe that despite the destruction brought by an armed crisis, women can empower one another and bring forth hope, healing, and reconciliation toward building a safer and economically-sustainable community.


Jamila-Aisha P. Sanguila is a Salzburg Global Fellow who is currently taking part in the Asia Peace Innovators Forum, a program held in partnership with the Nippon Foundation. Sign up for our newsletter here to receive updates about this program.

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