Building capacities for mediation among women in Asia

APWAPS is building cooperation with Mediators Beyond Borders (MBB), an international NGO that promotes skills for peace and mediation.

Three of our colleagues from APWAPS affiliates had the opportunity to attend the MBB training, “Women in Peace Building: Enhancing Skills and Practices” and the global mediators congress in Bucharest, Romania, on 20-26 March 2015.

Participants included Jurma Tikmasan of Tarbilang Foundation, Inc, who is actively involved in promoting women in peacebuilding in Mindanao, Southern Philippines.  Jurma explained there are women who have played vital roles in peace-building, but they are no way near a critical mass.   Jurma participated in the training with the aim of,

“Cascading the salient points of the training into our communities for more women to be able learn from it and be of help, God Willing.”

Jurma noted that the expert input from the trainers, who had direct experience in mediation, was invaluable, particularly as this expertise was based on “their real and personal experiences of conflict transformation.”

Another participant, Charmaine Mae J. Dagapioso-Baconga, of  Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. and also from the conflict-affected region of Mindanao, shared this positive assessment of the training.  She summarised key learnings in the following five points:

  • First learning; mediation never works when parties do not TRUST the mediator, and second, if they do not trust the PROCESS itself.
  • Second learning; self assessment on how best you can be at your present state is necessary as we continue our own peacebuilding practice.
  • Third learning; sharing our own experiences and listening to others experiences as well enriches your awareness and practice.
  • Fourth learning; the solidarity of the participants and the trainers has been solid that hopefully will sustain the passion and the drive to continue with our work as we contribute in transforming communities and ourselves in the process as well.
  • Fifth learning; dangerous dialogues and courageous conversations require a lifelong commitment and start from within. It is worth the risk as long as we can help peoples and communities transform relationships and conflicts.

Jurma added one more to the list:

  • Neutrality and objectivity; mediators need to keep their objectivity, trying not to take sides while facilitating the dialogue of the parties, and/or encouraging them to talk.  

Both say that there is a lot that they can take forward in their work building peace on the ground in Mindanao.  Reflecting on ways to follow-up on the training, Charmaine explained:

 I asked myself how can I help in developing or enhancing capacities on mediation. Maybe, I can help in ways to provide support to fellow staff and community partners with my present role now, as a trainer and accompanier to our movement called Lawig Kalinaw, a movement of peacebuilders who have graduated from the courses we have conducted and in working closely with our Community-based peacebuilding team and Lawig Kalinaw volunteers in their actual peacebuilding work like clan feuds, dialogues with stakeholders (both state and non-state armed groups). Specifically, in most of the areas we are working with, children and women are the most vulnerable. Hence, we provide spaces for capacity support to women leaders and their constituency and the local peace structures who are most challenged to address the violence in their respective areas.

Hand in hand with the capacity building, we can still advocate for local mediation as a means of addressing conflict rather than the most common one in the communities which is arbitration. This can also be policy advocacy to strengthen the present structures and shall help in pushing for changes in the communities.

Both Jurma and Charmaine are part of a national network of women peacebuilders in the Philippines, WEACT 1325, and affiliates of APWAPS.

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