Froilyn Mendoza is an indigenous community leader in The Philippines. She heads up the Teduray-Lambangian Women’s Organisation (TLWOI) and despite her young age has already helped to highlight the rights and struggles of indigenous people on a national and international scale in the framework of the peace process in southern Philippines.
Froilyn’s work as the sole representative of the Teduray tribe in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission provided her with the platform to try to redress the marginalisation of The Philippines’ indigenous people and the Tedurary tribe in particular. Her role gave them a voice in the formal peace process.
The Commission is the body in charge of turning the 2014 peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) into law. Froilyn, explained how the long war has impacted her and the Teduray people:
We’ve lived through this war for 40 years. It prevented us from developing because we were always being confronted with the conflict. I now want my children to live without fear.
This would be more than enough for most people, but not for this inspirational leader. This year Froilyn has also continued to build the TLWOI. A key focus for Froilyn is supporting Téduray and Lambangian women in attaining their sustainable and environmental development, while respecting their indigenous cultures and the promotion of their basic development rights as tribal women.
The 15th anniversary of the UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security brought a fresh opportunity to highlight their work on the topic to a new audience, and we were able to help.
As part of celebrations to mark the anniversary Froilyn joined the Conciliation Resources team in New York to speak at an event with hosted by the Dutch Mission to the United Nations. Froilyn effortlessly engaged the audience, explaining the struggles of the female members of the indigenous tribe to the varied international audience.
We were also able to help Froilyn connect with other female peacebuilders including indigenous female peacebuilders from Colombia. Whilst in the city she participated in the peace forum by Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP.)
The indigenous people, which includes the Teduray and Labangian represent around 10% of the Philippine population and live in the predominantly in the southern island of Mindanao including those within the Bangsamoro region.
Over the decades of war they have experienced marginalisation, deprivation and violence. But these challenges have only strengthened Froilyn’s drive to build the profile of her people and improve their opportunities in life. She is succeeding.
Froilyn has ensured that the perspectives, experiences and aspirations of her people, and other indigenous groups, are included in the peace agreement and the governance structures for the new autonomous region. As she puts it: “this work has enabled the voices of indigenous groups to be heard”.
The Teduray-Lambangian Women’s Organisation is one of the eight partners of an EU-funded and UK-HRD funded project run by Conciliation Resources. The project supports civil society in Mindanao to actively participate in the transition of the Bangsamoro to a new self-governing entity, following the signing of a peace agreement in March 2014.