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Closing Remarks

By Rep. Edcel C. Lagman

Launch of the Research on “Reconstructing Masculinities: Gender Dynamics After Conflict in the Bangsamoro” at the Novotel Cubao, Quezon City on 22 May 2024

It is an unfortunate reality that armed conflict aggravates and intensifies already very real and pre-existing discrimination and prejudices against women and reinforces and perpetuates deep-rooted and long-standing gender roles that adversely impact the lives and fundamental human rights of women and girls.

The very thorough, well-documented, and timely research of Ms. Maho Nakayama of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and her colleagues underscores the need for a more gender-responsive approach not only to peacebuilding and but also achieving gender justice and the importance of gender mainstreaming in areas of protracted conflict and violence, like in the Bangsamoro.

Cognizant of the fact that areas of conflict have markedly higher incidences of gender-based violence and that the persistence of such violence directed upon women and girls continues even post conflict due to the general breakdown of the rule of law and the poverty and chaos that ensue from combat and warfare, we are behooved to take immediate action to ensure that women are part of peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.

We must also tirelessly endeavor to break down and eliminate gender roles that continue to harm women and undermine any chance of them truly contributing to peace efforts and ultimately taking charge of their own lives.

The American think tank Council on Foreign Relations unequivocally states that “evidence shows that peace processes overlook a strategy that could reduce conflict: the inclusion of women.”

Research conducted by Nilsson conclusively show that the participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, makes a peace agreement 64% less likely to fail.

These data validate the significance of the passage of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 way back in 2000 to increase the participation of women in conflict prevention, mediation, and resolution efforts.

Moreover, recent studies have shown that women’s participation in the peace process improves by 20% the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years and by 35% the likelihood of a peace agreement lasting 15 years. [Council on Foreign Relations]

Even better is the finding that it does not matter if women’s participation is in the form of official roles or through grassroots efforts – the mere fact that they were given an opportunity to be part of peacebuilding matters tremendously in transforming conflict-ridden areas into havens of peace.

Clearly, women deserve a seat at the table and wide-ranging opportunities to influence peacebuilding efforts. But as the Sasakawa Peace Foundation study on gender dynamics in conflict areas demonstrates, outdated concepts of masculinity – the propensity for violence and sexual aggression, dominance and controlling behavior, rejection of roles perceived as women’s work like household duties and parenting, among others – all erode any gains we may achieve for more comprehensive and all-encompassing, and longer lasting peace.

It is vital to underscore that if we want enduring peace and greater gender equality, we all have a responsibility to help redefine what it means to be a man in the 21st century.

We can start by not warning our sons that “boys don’t cry” when they hurt themselves or our brothers and male friends to “man-up” in the face of failures or mental health problems. We should stop dismissing men’s violent behavior, displays of homophobia, men being emotionally closed off, and spousal infidelity by simply shrugging our shoulders and saying that “boys will be boys”. 

Traditional, outdated concepts of masculinity do not only impact negatively on women and their rights as persons, they also diminish men and make them lesser human beings. This toxic kind of masculinity and chest-beating version of manhood no longer resonates.

It has to be unlearned because it is rooted in misogynism and is profoundly detrimental to society even as it is the antithesis of progressive thinking, individual autonomy, social justice. As illustrated in Ms. Nakayama’s research, it feeds on the oppression and marginalization of women and girls, encourages gender inequality and iniquities, and prevents women from charting their own paths and contributing to nation building.  

In eradicating these outmoded and prejudicial gender roles and gender dynamics which are harmful to women, to society, and to men themselves, women can live fuller, more purposeful lives and will gain the power and agency to shape not only their own futures but also that of their communities and ultimately, their nation’s.

We are grateful to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation for this crucial and essential research that will serve as our blueprint as we rebuild communities in war-torn Bangsamoro, improve gender relations, and redefine gender roles even as it will also be a reliable compass as we navigate the oftentimes treacherous waters of peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction with the indispensable help and participation of women.

As we close today’s program, we open the horizon for more meaningful participation of women in securing lasting peace in Bangsamoro.

Thank you.