Maranao women. They are the most vulnerable sector among peoples in Marawi’s displacement.
Next to children, they constituted more than a third part of the statistics at the height of diaspora in 2017.
Beyond their veiled images and worn colorful malongs are complex interweaving roles and identities as wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, neighbors, and friends helping each other balance their lives as partner in decision-makings of every home — or more appropriately, in every temporal shelter.
Albeit the conservative culture of Maranao society, women comparably held revered social designation in their communities. They are mediators, comforters, first aid healthcare provider, entrepreneurs, peacemakers, food or nutrition managers, values educators, community communicators, child rights advocates, lovers, keeper of culture, bearer of diaspora’s pains, and struggling co-author of social transformation as women within a transitioning government. None of them complained that their hands are full and responsibilities are endless. They did and passed through the process — proudly done as survivors for survivors. And indeed, displacement wasn’t able to rub out these roles.
In its convoluted personas, they will likely be the first stakeholders to assert the rights of every child to be honored as “peace zone” themselves under the new policy on “special protection of children in situation of armed conflict” (R.A. 11188).
This has been their lives even before the siege begun. All are paradoxically unique yet essential.
“When the women-friendly spaces (WFS) were opened and we were organized as internally displaced persons (IDPs), it became our venue to gather together and we underwent psychosocial sessions which begun with an introspection and understanding of ourselves and our contexts,” said Marylou Dianalan, in Guinaopan, Ramain town, Lanao del Sur.
“We either had individual or group counseling, depending on evident personal issues and needs. What is important is that we are able to discuss our problems and can vent out our frustrations and pains with others without fear of judgment as we’re bearer of same circumstance,” said Soraina Dicunugun.
All women groups in five WFS underwent series of educational discussion on children’s rights, gender equality, maternity and child care, family planning, health, nutrition, time management, waste management and control, women’s rights, violence against women and children (VAWC), early-warning-and-early-reponse (EWER), and climate change adaptation.
There were 35 psychosocial-related sessions conducted for women IDPs in each of the five barangays.
Participants were 215 women in barangay Bagoingud; 268 women in barangay Guinaopan; 209 women in barangay Pindolonan; 149 women in barangay Dayawan; and 158 women in barangay Tarik. Each space has its trained facilitators.
Bagoingud and Ginaopan are located in Ditsaan Ramain, Lanao del Sur; barangays Pindolonan and Dayawan are in Marawi city; and, barangay Tarik is located at Buadiposo-buntong.
“We also attended on our kids who enjoyed their alternative education through the child-friendly spaces (CFS). There, they were able to socialize with other children; learned and played with them,” expressed Aisah Dianalan.
“Among the lessons considered vital was waste management because we’re addition to the populace of the community and we knew that the barangay had serious historical issues on flooding and inundation whenever there is typhoon. We need to insure that garbage will not add to the problem,” pointed Sapia Ebra, a 70-year old woman.
“In line with that, we were taught early warning and early response (EWER) in case another disaster happens,” added Fatima Macarindig.
“We also discussed livelihood, marketing, and possible alternative sources of income. More important for us now is to rebuild the economy of the family to meet our basic needs; live decent lives,” said Salma Noor in barangay Dayawan which was also conformed by others.
“The space developed friendship and camaraderie among us. We found a new home; found new friends. The barangay officials are also assisting us,” said Yasmin Disangcopan in barangay Pindulunan.
Parents present during the focus group discussion also said that being organized “provide access for relief goods, supplies for children, some social services, and financial supports, and other assistance to build our temporary shelters.”
The WFS were also instrumental in facilitating the documentation of children without birth registrations in coordination with their barangays and facilitators.
No biometrics IDPs
Unfortunately, not all relocated IDPs were able to do biometric registration “because at that instance, we do not have money to pay for costly fares to travel around the lake and reach Marawi,” complained Dianalan.
“Some were able to do biometrics recording; some are not,” she added, explicating that the highway which connects Ramain and Buadipuso-buntong to the city was closed. The way to Marawi was also a conflict zone.
“It will cost us a thousand if we risked to travel round the lake to get into the city. That means a thrifty budget of week-long food supply already,” they said.
On the other hand, IDPs in barangay Dayawan pointed the advantage of undergoing psychosocial processes in the resurgence of self-confidence and the transformation of weaknesses into conscious awareness of rights as displaced communities, as women, and as new gender rights advocates.
“Many of us are now maximizing the presence of health centers for check-ups and medication while at the same time valuing herbal medicines as a result of health-related seminars,” said Normala Ampatua and Soraya Manaul.
They also said that they are now more conscious in the use of time; more aware on women’s rights to assert against abuses; and, vigilant on illegal trafficking to report these to authorities to protect women and youths. Open communication is truly vital, they said.
CFS facilitators likewise learned to be flexible and adaptive in working with children and youths with varied ages, different sense of values, interests, personalities, and concerns.
Children and youths likewise developed understanding on cooperation, friendship, and strengthened their selves as both innate and relational balm to trauma.
Livelihood & hopes for recovery
Majority of the relocated IDP women in those five WFS prefer that the assistance in this juncture must be focused on livelihood and provision of seed capital for entrepreneurial endeavors.
They wanted to boost their skills by availing courses from TESDA on dressmaking, baking, hair-cutting (barbershop), cosmetics, automotive, and manicure.
They hoped to “sustain the educational session for children and maybe with additional provision of school supplies now that some of them are attending formal education.”
They also wish to avail access on potable water system and streetlights because the area where they’re situated is too dark at night albeit near the circumferential highway in Ramain.
Moreover, IDPs in barangay Tarik want local government authorities to reconsider the conduct of biometric for IDPs who were unable to go to Marawi in time for registration for them to leverage on opportunities, social services, and supports from government’s agencies working under Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM).
They likewise requested for the construction of a multi-purpose gym which will serve as a convenient venue for IDPs convergence.
A CFS facilitator also raised about a need of a laptop for educational purpose.
In barangay Guinaupan, IDPs wished scholarship will be available for children and youths.
Meanwhile, in barangay Pindolonan, IDPs wanted to pursue more seminar to capacitate youths’ leadership and develop their skills.
They also wanted to be bridged with social welfare office to formally register the solo parents to benefit from the law supporting single parents.
“Many of the women IDPs in this barangay are either elderly or are solo parents with children but without sustainable sources of income,” they said.
Women’s experiences and narratives were observably unraveled in positive appreciation on their contributions, their inner strengths, and constructive discernment of the hardships endured in the last two years.
They have demonstrated strong emphasis on a vision to build safer communities while anchoring on imperatives to increase access on opportunities, livelihood and employment, education, health, and other necessary social services through humanitarian lens.
The uncomfortable transition from Marawi’s urban city life to the demands of rural lifestyle tells a lot how they struggled against yielding to economic and political despair as internally relocated communities.
Further, the articulation of their needs and wants illustrated their collective understanding on their roles with guarded optimism to tackle dilemmas and intractable problems. If recommendations are responded, the women may have a better chance to rise above vicious powerlessness to bring about the imperatives of desired transformation based on IDPs rights.
Read related story: Repairing the invisible part of Marawi siege’s destruction