Sha Elijah Dumama is the Floor Leader in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the interim regional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of the Philippines. Ahead of International Women’s Day, we talked to her about women’s inclusion and what embracing equity means to her.
Why do you think the inclusion of women in the Bangsamoro peace process and the region’s political future is so important?
“It’s very important to make sure that the women are represented in political processes and the Bangsamoro parliament because it’s the women that are the prime-movers for peace.
"The role that women play as wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and even professionals cannot be underestimated.
"I would like to believe that women humanise the process. It’s the women that bring out humanity in the process and that’s why it’s really very important in peacebuilding and even in political processes in the Bangsamoro.”
How is your work supporting women’s inclusion in the Bangsamoro?
“I would like to believe that the trust that is given to me during this transition period is important and would serve as an inspiration to all women regardless of age and background. I am the first woman Floor Leader of the Bangsamoro parliament, and in this role I work to really bring out the voice of women in the parliament. Hopefully this is impacting on how women view their participation in government or in peace processes.
"There are four women Floor Leaders and that speaks volumes of how much trust the community has in women leaders. We have also approved a committee on women in the Bangsamoro parliament, which is new, and a good leverage for women’s issues to be tackled and discussed at the level of the parliament. Basically just being there and being present and making sure that women are represented is already a big thing.”
What are your hopes for the future of the Bangsamoro region?
"I hope for a Bangsamoro region that is progressive, that is self-reliant and really determined. We cannot predict a perfect future for the Bangsamoro but reaching a state where everybody is free to live a life that has integrity and where the next generation is enjoying the fruits of the peace process, that would be a lovely thing to happen."
What does equity in peacebuilding mean to you?
“Equity for me is giving people the rights and services according to their own needs. This year’s theme of embracing equity epitomises that kind of principle position of looking for a kind of representation that is commensurate with your own needs. I believe that at this point in time it’s not actually power over somebody else, but it’s power with somebody else. So that is equity for me.”
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The Philippines has suffered two major armed conflicts in recent years – in Mindanao involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a countrywide communist insurgency with the National Democratic Front (NDF).