Honorable Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Speaker of the Parliament Atty Alia Pangalian Balindong, Executive Secretary Abdulraof Macacua, PCOL Donald A Madamba, the Provincial Director of Maguindanao Police Provincial Office, fellow Members of the Parliament, Members of the Cabinet, partners from the international community, ladies and gentlemen, ISANG MAGANDAND UMAGA SA ATING LAHAT.

Today is the first day of the annual 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women or VAW, and I am profoundly honoured and overjoyed to be in this place, at this time, at this moment.

This day is no ordinary day. Despite the times of uncertainty as we are still facing the pandemic, you are here with me today simply because you also believe in the same thing that I believe in – ending violence against women in BARMM.

Gender-based violence is the most de-humanizing form of gender oppression and considered as the highest form of human rights violation. It exists in every society, in every country, rich or poor, in every religion, and every culture. The Bangsamoro region is not an exception. If something was ever universal, it is gender inequality and the violence that it breeds against women.

To kick off this year’s campaign to end VAW, I stand before you again, to report on the status of the Bangsamoro women and what has been done to address their lived realities. This is already the second year of the transition, and there is still a lot to be done to deliver our commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, in so far as women are concerned.

Before I begin my report, allow me to highlight that on the 30th Session of the Bangsamoro Parliament dated January 31, 2020, the Bangsamoro Autonomy Act No. 8 otherwise known as the Bangsamoro Women Commission Act of 2020 was approved. This milestone legislation reaffirms the vital role of women in nation-building and regional development of BARMM. Our sincerest gratitude to CM AHOD “Al-haj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim and my co-members of the parliament,


For without them, gender-responsive governance would not be possible. Thank you for ensuring that the Bangsamoro government is serious in meeting the expectations of the people, from whom its mandate arises, and looking into the decision-making processes and the manner of implementing BARMM’s programs and projects so that the government can respond appropriately to the needs of the different sectors especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

As we are all aware, our world is struggling. The United Nations reports that for the first time in 30 years, poverty is rising, nuclear non-proliferation efforts are slipping away, and countries are failing to act in emerging areas of danger. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls. Yet, the Bangsamoro Regional Government and its partners have moved forward with humility in response to the global pandemic COVID-19 as it impacts on women and girls and their communities.

Barely two months after the declaration of community quarantine in the region, the Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC), in partnership with The Asia Foundation, conducted an assessment research on the impact of COVID-19 on women in the region. Findings from the said research revealed that in terms of access to life-saving information, 65% of the respondents said that at the onset of the implementation of the quarantine, barangay assemblies were convened to inform and update communities on the pandemic and the measures to be instituted to prevent the spread. However, after the first assembly, there were no more follow-throughs from their respective Barangay Local Governments to keep them updated.

Other significant findings from the said research are the following:

Number 1: 68% of the community-based women respondents were forced to stop pursuing their livelihood activities because of the lockdown and the strict implementation of the community quarantine.

Number 2: The implementation of the community quarantine was accordingly taken advantage of by some suppliers. 49% of the community-based respondents said that there was a sudden increase in prices of essential commodities. However, despite the substantial rise in prices, there was still a shortage of supply of rice and medicines as these are basic needs.

Number 3: In terms of participation of women, 60% of the community-based respondents said that women’s participation during the pandemic, especially in terms of planning, implementation and monitoring of the implementation of the guidelines on the community quarantine and in the relief and recovery efforts, was evident, as can be seen in the composition of local task forces were women are represented.

Number 4: 54% of the community-based respondents said that in the quarantine control/checkpoints, there was no observance of gender-sensitive protocols. There were no separate inspection/scanning lanes for women and men. It was also observed that no female PNP/AFP officers were deployed to inspect women passing through the control points.

In response to these findings, the Bangsamoro Women Commission, with assistance from the UN Women, delivered a privilege speech before the Parliament, a CALL TO ADDRESS ADDRESSING GENDER ISSUES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC IN THE BARMM.

Specifically, the address called for a gender-responsive and culture-sensitive COVID-19 current and planned interventions, ensuring that the same is contributing to gender equality and women empowerment.

To provide life-saving information to communities on COVID-19, the Commission launched a radio and television program entitled Katok Bahay Laban COVID 19 which posted 16,000 views and likes. The said program was also in partnership with The Asia Foundation.

To further ensure the maintenance of peace and social cohesion, the Commission is currently implementing a project under UN Women’s Women Sustain the Peace during COVID 19 in the Philippines, with support from the Royal Norwegian Government. Part of this support is strengthening our capacities as BWC to advocate for women’s agenda in gender-responsive legislation, policies and programmes in the BARMM, including recovery to COVID-19. This support enabled us to adopt the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, together with UNFPA and The Asia Foundation; reach out with the women in conflict-affected areas such as the SPMS Box and Upi to gather their experiences towards greater participation in conflict mediation; and in the pipeline, formulate policies pertaining to BWC’s representation in the peace and order councils at the regional and local levels, GAD planning and budgeting, non-discrimination in the context of COVID-19 and building capacities of our parliamentarians on gender-responsive legislation. These policies and tools are certainly crucial in strengthening our capacities as the regional women’s machinery and ensuring gender-responsive governance in the region.

In addressing the humanitarian- development-peacebuilding triple nexus in the conflict- and disaster-afflicted communities in the region during and after the COVID-19 outbreak, the UNFPA has scaled up its interventions from a ‘gender’ lens, targeting the most marginalized women whose lives are becoming even more difficult because of COVID-19.

Through the Central Emergency Response Fund and Humanitarian Trust Fund, 1,902 women in disaster- and conflict-affected areas in North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur including Marawi City were reached, providing them with cash voucher assistance. Cash disbursements were also initiated to 50 traditional birth attendants or “hilot”. Cash for Health eliminates the economic barriers to access health services and incentivizes positive health-seeking behavior among pregnant women while engaging and transforming the role of the “hilots” from birth attendants to pregnancy trackers thereby integrating them to the formal health referral network, rather than assisting deliveries at home by themselves.

Cash for Health is one of UNFPA Philippines’ newest programs for reducing unsafe delivery practices, increasing women’s access to life-saving maternal health interventions such as antenatal and postnatal care, and serving as a critical social safety net for poor pregnant women. The Mayor of Marawi City has included pregnant women as recipients of the COVID-19 Social Amelioration Program, taking off from the Cash for Health programme UNFPA is pilot-testing in the City. By doing so, the Mayor has expanded the number of pregnant women being reached by cash assistance in Marawi. In North Cotabato, 633 pregnant women who received Cash for Health were from different ethnic groups, including IPs and Moros.

Under the Paid Cash for Work, 60 internally displaced persons and 60 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxilliary Brigade or BIWAB in Marawi City, Marantao and Piagapo in Lanao del Sur demonstrated increased knowledge and skills required as Women Friendly Space Facilitators while at the same time receiving Cash for Work through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian government. As a Protection strategy, Cash for Work was used to reduce risks and vulnerability to gender-based violence. It was a welcome relief from the stress brought about by the lack of funds to bring food to the table, a factor recognized as aggravating risks and vulnerability to GBV in households. In line with this, 11 Women Friendly Spaces are being maintained in municipalities in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Livelihood assistance in the form of seed capital worth P15,000 were provided to each of the 150 IDPs, including 30 women with disabilities, in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur and a package of capacity-building courses that included Marketing Management, Human Resource Management, Project Management, Financial Management, and Business Planning for Micro Businesses, which was designed in partnership with the Mindanao State University College of Business Administration and Accounting.

On Child, Early and Forced Marriage

It is no secret that one of the biggest problems that exist in our society is Child, Early and Forced Marriage or CEFM. I cannot help but remember Suwaila Abdulmaula’s speech when she spoke to us during the launching of the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security or RAPWPS 2020-2022. She lamented: “Marriage should be for adults, at the proper time, and out of a free will.”

According to the United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA, 1 in every 6 girls in the country are married before reaching the age of 18 years old. If we refer to government population estimates, 1 in 6 under 18 girls would roughly translate to around 1.6 million girls in the country marrying before the age of 18.  In the Bangsamoro region, the estimate is approximately 22 percent. This could mean approximately 88,600 girls having to face wifehood and motherhood too early, plucked out from education, her peers, her dreams, her positive role in the bright future of the Bangsamoro. But the numbers could be more. In our communities, how many girl-brides and girl-mothers do we see? What is happening to them?

The Violence Against Women (VAW) hotline of the Bangsamoro Women Commission found that 33% of those who called for help were young wives who were married before they reached the age of 18.  The situations we see on the ground reveal that child marriage may serve some benefit for the girl’s family for a while but is detrimental to our development as a ‘Bangsa’ economically, socially and culturally. Data from the Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey or NDHS indicate that 26.4% of married women aged 15-19 years old reported experiencing physical, sexual or emotional violence. In the Bangsamoro, 44 percent of women interviewed in the NDHS 2017 reported having experienced intimate partner violence. Almost half of those interviewed in our region experienced VAW. This is a very high figure that we should investigate.

In 2019, there were 51 cases of VAW in the region yet in 2020, there has been an 18 percent increase or a total 61 reported cases. Let me say that again: 18 percent increase.

Early this year the world became familiar with “stay-at-home” and “shelter-in-place” orders, drastic steps introduced to keep us safe during the coronavirus pandemic. For countless women in the Bangsamoro area suffering from domestic abuse, however, home is not a safe place. Survivors of abuse were suddenly locked in with their perpetrators. Forced coexistence, work loss, increasing stress and potential anxiety have contributed to household tension, which has transformed several spouses into abusers and exacerbated established abuses.

In Guindulungan municipality, a 13-year-old died of maternal bleeding, her womb was too soft to carry a baby. This girl was our responsibility to protect. We all should have ensured her well-being. Adolescent brides are also at risk for early and frequently repeated pregnancies. “Adolescent mothers are twice as likely to die of pregnancy and experience childbirth complications than women between the ages of 20 and 24.”  Unprepared for such heavy responsibilities, children of adolescents are prone to stunting, severe and acute malnutrition, and consequently, child early death.

Partners like UNYPHIL-Women and the Women’s Organization of Rajah Mamalu Descendants in Upi supported women in conducting dialogues with the Provincial Government of Maguindanao to push for stronger actions to end child and forced marriages, at the provincial level.

Child marriage makes us all poorer in the end. As girls are not given a chance to develop themselves, we in the Bangsamoro are missing out on the potential contributions of our talented and bright girl-children. A study in 2009 confirmed that marriage registration is not practiced in many of our areas. In the survey, 593 respondents were younger than 18 at marriage, 83 percent were between 15-17 years old, and 17 percent between 9- 14 years old. The study stated that our religion and culture have been blamed for the practice of child marriage. We have to correct misconceptions and teaching applications that are not in the best interest of our sons and daughters. We will embark on ending harmful social and gender norms and practices through advocacy, social and behavioral change efforts that will involve families, the youth, the professionals, communities, local leaders, tribal elders, Muslim religious leaders, community groups and volunteers, schools/colleges/universities, health centers, local government units, members of the Bangsamoro Parliament, line agencies, civil society groups and even the private sector.

In a further research conducted by the Plan International on understanding adolescent needs and priorities in the BARMM, of the 1,312 respondents between the ages 12 to 19, 93 said that they were married between the age of 12 to 17; 4 said that they were already divorced between the age of 12 to 19, and 2 said that they were widowed between the age of 12-19.

As Muslims and public officials, we can make sure our GIRLS STAY IN SCHOOL and OUT OF MARRIAGE so when they reach 18, they are capable of achieving their fullest potentials and become productive partners in realizing peace and development for the Bangsamoro. WE CAN END CHILD MARRIAGE. We can remove this barrier that prevents our children from achieving their full potential. We will not regret the better life it will bring to our girls, their families, the community and the entire Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro girls deserve a dignified and bright future, and we in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority have the power, duty and opportunity to give that right to our girls. Make the #endchildmarriage part of our autonomous law, particularly the Gender and Development or GAD Code.

As the BWC Chairperson, I cannot just sit idly. At the same time, other children are put into circumstances that often lead to a life that robs them of education, job security and most importantly, dignity. Today, we shout from the top of our lungs against a child, early and forced marriage. We hope not just to be heard, but we hope to see action taken against child marriage. So many girls do not get to have their voices heard so we must use ours to amplify theirs.

For all the women and women’s allies present here today, we have work to do. And we may have to work twice or three times as hard as men to achieve the same recognition, but if this is what it takes for us to be successful, then let us work that hard. We are more than capable. I call on the Caucus of Women Members of the Parliament. We may only be the 16% of the 80-Member Parliament, but, as we often say, Bangsamoro women are stronger together. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy has been here to support us- ensuring a gender-responsive legislation and ensuring that the 5% Gender and Development Budget of all ministries, offices, and agencies are spent according to its purpose.

On the incidence of violence against women and children, the report from the Philippine National Police reveals that even in this period of the pandemic, women and young girls were not spared by their perpetrators. In Maguindanao where the incidence of violence against women and young girls is highest in the region, there are 48 reported cases of violence, 16 of which were committed against women and 32 committed against minors from January to October of this year. Included in this figure are the two deaths of young girls and the wounding of 8 other women during the mortar shelling in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan on this year’s Eidl Fitr celebration.

Based further on the report from the PNP, rape committed against minors is highest, with 17 cases, 4 of which are incestuous.

Despite laws prohibiting amicable settlement of VAWC cases, especially cases of child abuse, 8 cases were reported to have been settled amicably, either at the level of the Barangay or the Council of Elders. The usual practice is to give perpetrators the option of paying a Multa in the amount of P100,000.00 or so or to marry their victims.

In one of the conversations the BWC had with women from Barangay Talibadok, Datu Hoffer, two young mothers who were victims of rape ended up being forced to marry their aggressors. Accordingly, their dream of pursuing education died down on the day they started waking up in the morning and seeing the face of the man who destroyed their future. While they may have learned to love their aggressors, that love was something forced upon them and became more of duty as wives rather than something given and spontaneous.

To address the prevalence of VAWC in Maguindanao, the Philippine National Police designated 3 to 4 policewomen as WCPD in class A municipalities and 2 in class B or C municipalities. The PNP has made it a strict policy that no WCPD shall have dual functions. The PNP has also strengthened its advocacy and awareness-raising on VAWC and its police-community relations with the objective of instilling in the minds of the people that VAWC is a crime against humanity.

It has also engaged the Council of Elders in a dialogue to ensure that cases of VAWC are not settled amicably, as a matter of policy.

To enhance response to VAWC cases, the Maguindanao Police Provincial Office developed a Guidance Note for the Prevention and Response to GBV and VAWC, with technical assistance from the Bangsamoro Women Commission and the United Nations Population Fund. The Guidance Note is aligned with the PNP Operational Procedure and Performance Standards and Assessment Tools for Police Services Addressing Violence Against Women but taking into consideration the context and culture of the Bangsamoro. This Guidance Note will be launched in today’s event.

243 women and 143 male members of local inter-agency protection mechanisms in 4 municipalities/city in Lanao del Sur completed capacity-building sessions on delivering client-centered services to GBV survivors following ethical and safety standards through assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian government. UNFPA also provided technical assistance to the municipalities to strengthen the implementation of the Joint Memorandum Circular released by the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Justice for the creation of the city, municipal and provincial-level local committees on anti-trafficking and violence against women and their children or LCAT-VAWC. To adapt to COVID-19-induced mobility and physical distancing restrictions, 180 hours of one-on-one mentoring via telephone were provided to 30 members of LCAT-VAWCs. In turn, these participants re-echoed their training to an additional 100 LGU officials and constituents. To date, the municipal governments of Marantao and Piagapo in Lanao del Sur have passed an Executive Order and a Resolution, respectively, supporting the LCAT-VAWC creation.

Women and Children Protection Unit was also established in the Provincial Hospital in Maguindanao, with three physicians, three social workers, and four police officers completing the virtual training on WCPU and GBV case management.

UNFPA also extended technical assistance to the BARMM Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) in integrating gender and gender-based violence related interventions in the BARMM MSSD Priorities for 2020. UNFPA co-convened with the BARMM MSSD and UNICEF the sub-national Joint Child Protection and Gender-based Violence Working Group to ensure the continuity of essential life-saving protection services despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Women, Peace and Security

If we are investing in community resilience, we must invest in women. A month ago, the Bangsamoro Regional Government, through the Bangsamoro Women Commission, launched the first Bangsamoro Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (RAPWPS) 2020-2022 that will guide and remind the members of bureaucracy that there can be no genuine peace and development without women’s meaningful participation.

The RAPWPS has been a substantive step towards mainstreaming gender and bringing more women and young women into official peace and security processes at the regional level, as well as creating a supporting mechanism for regional and national efforts on Women, Peace and Security. Let us put our GAD Plans and Budgets into use to address gender issues in the context of conflict, threats of violent extremism and complex emergencies such as flooding. Let us use the minimum 5% GAD budget to influence the 95% of our budgets towards women’s empowerment and gender equality and ensure accountability in its utilization.

Further, the Bangsamoro Government is strengthening its efforts towards gender-responsive governance by enhancing the Gender and Development Code or the GAD Code, with assistance from The Asia Foundation and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. It is my pride and honor to share that the drafting of the Bangsamoro GAD Code is now on its final stage. The results of the series of consultations made with local government units, civil society, religious leaders and other stakeholders within and without BARMM are now being consolidated. The Commission has high hopes that the Code will be passed and approved. It represents a milestone for the advancement of women’s human rights, gender equality and women empowerment in the context of Islam.

We have also demonstrated our full commitment to fulfilling our obligations and responsibility in the peace agreement we signed with the government through the decommissioning of Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade or BIWAB of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Of the 12,000 MILF forces who underwent the 2nd phase of the decommissioning in 2019, 106 or .008% were members of the BIWAB who received initial assistance of P100,000 each. BIWAB members who did not participate in the decommissioning are currently beneficiaries of a livelihood program from the International Organization for Migration or IOM. As of November, there are 75 BIWAB members from the 121st Battalion in Masiu, Lanao del Sur, 106th Battalion in Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Maguindanao, 110th Base Command in Carmen, North Cotabato, National Guard Inner Base Command in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and National Guard Field Base Command in Pikit, North Cotabato who just completed a 20-day training on dressmaking facilitated by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA. Sewing equipment composed of 3 electronic and four manual machines were provided for each battalion.

50 BIWAB members, 25 from Maguindanao and 25 from Lanao del Sur, are also currently being capacitated and organized by the UnyPhil Women as Watch Group on gender-based violence. The objective is for these BIWAB members to report and monitor cases of gender-based violence and VAWC. The UNFPA is funding this intervention.

On women and conflict

Amidst the lockdown and quarantine, an armed confrontation erupted in the upland town in South Upi, Maguindanao on April 10 and May 3, displacing about 598 indigenous families coming from the Teduray tribe, or 2,326 individuals. 1,472 of the affected population were women.

The same population was affected during the firefight that occurred in July and August of last year. The skirmishes were due to a longstanding dispute between private parties over issues of land ownership. In a report from the Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organization, the displaced families have already returned home except for the 92 families that are still temporarily sheltered in Sitio Cocob and near Barangay Kuya.

Humanitarian relief assistance consisting of food packs, medicines, hygiene kits and financial aid was provided by the Bangsamoro Regional Government, through the BARMM Readi, Ministry of Social Service and Development, Bangsamoro Women Commission, and offices of Members of the Parliament Romeo Saliga and Susana Anayatin.

Under the Cash for Work program of the UNFPA for the IDPs in South Upi, 77 pregnant women, 177 lactating women, 16 women with disabilities, and nine pregnant adolescents providing child care work in the evacuation areas were assisted.

On women’s participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding much are still to be done. In a focus group discussion with women and women’s organization from the SPMS Box, or Salibu Pagatin Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak, the 30 participants said that no matter how many trainings they undergo, their role in local conflict resolution in their respective communities is still underutilized. Accordingly, what is referred to them are minor conflicts over some petty issues such as rumors and intrigues involving women. Disputes of complex nature are automatically directed to the local government unit or to the peace and order council which does not have women’s representation.

This reality presents a more significant challenge for the Commission. However, we shall not falter. We shall not lose momentum in pushing for a peaceful Bangsamoro. If we cannot at this time ensure women’s meaningful role in conflict resolution, we will ensure that we shall multiply the number of dedicated and committed women who will advocate for peace. And on this note, I am happy to share that tomorrow, November 26, will be the start of a more focused engagement with grassroots and community-based women from the SPMS Box and Barangay Kuya, South Upi on dialogic mediation. They, whose lives and properties continue to be affected by the recurring conflicts in their areas, vowed to take a strong stand and protect their communities. They will no longer be the usual victims of the conflict that they have been. They will now be vanguards of peace.

On Education

Despite the pandemic, there is a 50% increase in the turn-out of enrollees from kinder to senior high school for the school year 2020-2021. As reported by the Ministry of Basic Higher and Technical Education, the total number of enrollees this year is 771,584 from 390,896 in 2019. Of this figure, 51% are female.

Again, through the Women Sustain Peace During COVID-19 in the Philippines project with UN Women, more than 450,000 audiences reached across BARMM (and even CARAGA) through radio programs on women, peace and security topics. Thanks to our partners, Balay Mindanaw, UNYPHIL-Women and Norus Salaam for making this happen.

On women’s economic empowerment

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Aquatic Resources is able to reach 48,093 women as beneficiaries of agricultural programs as of October this year, thereby increasing their average earning from P3,000-P4,000 a month, as reported during the 1st State of the Bangsamoro Women Address in 2019, to P5,500-P6,000 a month as of this year.

To support the internally displaced women of Lanao del Sur, the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur provided livelihood assistance to 1,436 women.

Through the Bangsamoro Sagip Kabuhayan Program being implemented by the Ministry of Social Service and Development or MSSD, 3,120 Women in Especially Difficult Circumstances and 2,991 female-headed household or solo parents were provided livelihood assistance amounting to P15k each, purposely to help them as they recover economically from the effects of COVID-19.

The MSSD is further implementing the Special Livelihood Program where 11,000 women were provided with assistance. Some of these women have inspiring stories of change resulting from the program implementation. To cite a few, 5 women beneficiaries from Barangay Sapad in Matanog, Maguindanao ventured into pancit noodles making. In this period of pandemic, they have to double their production because the demand has increased, thus, increasing their profit also.

Under MSSD’s Regular and Modified Conditional Cash Transfer or RCCT and MCCT, 282,362 and 23,541 respective women grantees who are either solo parents or persons with disabilities were reached out. The RCCT and MCCT are programs designed to provide assistance to the poor and more vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the society.

Partners like The Moropreneur Inc. provided livelihood support including entrepreneurship training to 20 cooperatives in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, reaching 777 women. This support embedded peace and social cohesion messages to ensure that these women in cooperatives prevent recruitment from armed groups while they sustain livelihoods in the context of COVID-19.

On land ownership, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has awarded 49 titles of land to 49 women farmers. This is a breakthrough. Before, these women were merely tenants. But, under the Humanitarian Development Assistance Program or HDAP, they now have right over the parcels of land they have been tilling over the past years.

On Health

In response to to COVID-19 pandemic, 1,886 women have been provided maternity kits, and 3,535 have been extended help with humanitarian works, such as Project Tabang, Reintegration Program, and Lingkod Kabataang Program.

As medical service is one of the priorities of the Bangsamoro Regional Government, 163 new midwives were deployed to the 36 towns of Maguindanao to expand health services in these communities. The newly appointed midwives form part of the Midwife in Every Community in BARMM (MECBA) project.

As our Chief Minister said, and I quote, “You have already shown your dedication to help uplift the standards of our medical care to our constituents. As midwives, you will become living ambassadors of our sealed vision for health care in the region”.

On Social Service

In 2020, almost 11,000 beneficiaries across the provinces of BARMM, were reached by the Ministry of Social Services and Development through their Sustainable Livelihood Programme. Their regular conditional cash transfer (RCCT) and Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) programmes supporting the health, nutrition and education needs of women benefitted 282,362 and 23, 541 women, including Solo Parents and PWDs, respectively.

On Gender and Development

The Bangsamoro Organic Law provides that at least 5% of the total annual budget of each ministry, office of agency shall be programmed for the implementation of Gender and Development or GAD.

To operationalize this provision, the Bangsamoro Women Commission issued a guidelines on GAD planning and budgeting. The guidelines mandate each ministry, office and agency to submit a GAD plan and budget and GAD Accomplishment Report. The review and endorsement by the Commission of the respective GAD plans and budgets are pre-requisite to the approval of each ministries’/office’s/agencies’ annual budget.

The women and men of government have come a long way in their understanding and appreciation of gender’s impact in the region’s development. Still, so much more have to be done before the Bangsamoro women and men can equally benefit from it. The GAD plan and budget is one concrete initiative to further this goal. The challenge now is for the Bangsamoro Regional Government to use it fully and judiciously.

Who could have thought that little over a year ago, we could accomplish this? Despite the impact of the coronavirus disease on the work that we do, we have achieved humble accomplishments in putting in place the appropriate mechanisms, policies, systems and processes that we shall turn over to the first regular government in 2022.

We have one more year in this transition period. While we still have a long way to go, we are already quite far from where we started as members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. Let us continue our work, with much more dedication and commitment, to better the lives of the Bangsamoro women and men, girls and boys.

Equality should never be a partial effort. It must be a dream and a truth for everyone – in our lives and for future generations. New thinking and traction on this crucial topic are desperately needed.

As I always say, I am proud of the Bangsamoro women today and every day. The Bangsamoro woman as homemaker or policymaker; the Bangsamoro woman as a worker, executive or entrepreneur; or better, the Bangsamoro woman in a combination of several of these roles. Whatever is our career outside the home, there is an irreplaceable value of women’s work everywhere.

I am taking this opportunity to thank each and every partner of the Bangsamoro Women Commission namely the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, UN Women, UNFPA, UNDP, The Asia Foundation, Islamic Relief Worldwide, UnyPhil, WeAct 1325, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the Philippine Commission on Women, the Philippine National Police, allies from the Parliament, specifically the Caucus of Women Members of the Parliament, and Members of the Cabinet and their respective GAD Focals. Thank you for walking with us from day one and for the continued support. We look forward to a sustained partnership even beyond the transition.

Let us make this 18-Day Campaign, a 365 Days of Commitment to End all forms of Gender-based Violence and harmful practices against women and girls!

Thank you and Wasallam.