Peacebuilding is everybody’s business

Peacebuilding does not happen overnight. It is a result of collective efforts — one that doesn’t happen with the pursuit of just one.

These are some of the realizations of village members in Piagapo — an outskirt community in Lanao del Sur in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The province of Lanao del Sur has seen a number of displacements due to armed conflicts and clan feud. The 2017 battle in Marawi City, the province’s capital, was one of the most damaging.

 

Children and youth as catalysts for peace

19-year old Rimah has experienced the impact the Marawi Siege in 2017. Her experience is what drives her to pursue her advocacy on peace education.

“My parents’ business was in the battle ground. It was reduced to nothing, affecting our family’s income,” she shares. Although Piagapo is kilometers away from the armed conflict area, she has seen hundreds of families flee to their town for safety. She’s had classmates who were once students in the war-scarred city and were forced to continue their education in other areas. She has friends who felt discriminated and were tagged as terrorists when people learn that they are from Marawi.

The aftermath of the siege has caused unprecedented damage to many, including children and youth.

“We do peace education through our peace club in school because we want to prevent another siege from happening. When the young people are aware of their role in building a peaceful community, when they are at peace with themselves, with their families, we can avoid conflicts,” she adds.

Rimah’s peace club was formed after they were trained as empowering children as peacebuilders (ECAP) facilitators by their fellow youth. ECAP is a World Vision approach that empowers children to be agents of change, healing, and peace, among their peers and in their communities. Rimah, along with 19 girls aged 15-20 are now at the forefront of their barangay’s peacebuilding initiative.

 

Support systems for children and youth in place

“We are not alone in this advocacy. We coordinate with the school and with our barangay to ensure good ECAP roll-out activities in the community,” Rimah confirms.

Teacher Asnairah, the peace club mentor shares, “It is important that children understand that peace starts with themselves. When they understand who they are, when they know the importance of peace within small groups such as their families, then they can make a difference and influence others. Our goal as educators is to keep these children away from negative influences that could lead them to the wrong path.” Asnairah is grateful that they were also involved in different trainings that helped them understand how to better protect and support their students.

World Vision has conducted workshops on creating child-friendly spaces for children who need psychosocial interventions and the roll out of peace education in and outside the school. A refresher course on child protection policies was also done, resulting to the creation of child protection committee in school.

“World Vision was also instrumental in re-activating our barangay council for the protection of children (BCPC),” adds barangay secretary Anisah. She admits that they didn’t know about it until the training was conducted.

BCPC is a structure mandated by the law for the care and protection of children. The council is in charge of planning and implementing activities on child protection at the barangay level and is composed of the punong barangay (village chief) as chair, chair of the committees on health, education and family, barangay secretary, a child representative and concerned government agencies. The village is mandated to have 1% of its internal revenue allocation for BCPC initiatives, which include peace education efforts.

“I am now part of the BCPC as youth representative and I feel confident to share my ideas because I feel supported by the school and the barangay,” Rimah says.

Since the Marawi Siege in 2017, World Vision Philippines, with funding from World Vision Korea, has helped organize 14 peace clubs in schools led by children and youth, who are now making waves in their respective schools and communities.