A tribute to brave women standing up for Marawi and justice

WOMEN HELPING WOMEN. A volunteer speaks with a mother and her children who fled the conflict in Marawi City in late May 2017. Photo from the Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation

Some people often correlate women leaders with bad governance or bad leadership. Well, I beg to disagree. Leadership for me is not about the title. You can be a full time homemaker and be a leader compared to an elected official.

In the case of the Marawi conflict and the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao, one woman stood in Congress to take a leadership stand – as leader of the voiceless minority enormously suffering from war. Thank you, Ate Samira Ali Gutoc, for braving the wild wind of criticisms. It must have been nerve-wracking to stand there. I could feel your heartbeat from the video. I experienced the same heartpounding moment when I was signing the petition questioning the Martial Law. It is ok if you could not have articulated perfectly what you wanted to convey. You didn’t have the privilege to talk nonstop unlike others who have but would not use them. In the end, we will be thankful for your courageous act even if the result was not the one we wanted.

Come to think of it, the world is not in ruins because of women leaders. Most world leaders are men but rarely do we attribute the failures in the area where they lead to their being men. Only women suffer from this stereotype and narrowmindedness. I wonder what will happen when at least half of the world leaders – formal and informal – are women. This is an experiment I want to see. How much more if 80% of our formal leaders globally are women. Don’t tell me that we will be doomed as we already are at the moment with more than 80% of men as formal leaders.

I am not for the battle of sexes. I am for cooperation of the two and recognition of both’ skills and potential to contribute in this world. Maybe we are in a parallel universe. In my world, I see women’s leadership potentials taken for granted even if it is much needed. In your world, women have no space in leadership at all. I would rather remain in my world as hope is there.

I can sense the difficulty of our few formal women leaders in our current society. I doubt if they are unleashing their full potential as leaders. Why? It is still men’s world where leadership accomplishments are measured on a patriarchal lens.

My heart and soul is telling me that it is not how we were born in this world – boy or girl, with special skills or special disabilities- that defines us. It is how we shape this one planet entrusted to us by our Almighty Creator. He is the One who believes most in our capacity to do good or bad. He always reminds us that to do good is the right path and He is there to protect us and shield us from harm. How come, we mere humans do not see this as we look at our fellow humans. Just to remind you women are humans too. We are not your accessories. And the saddest part is women bash women. Yes men do this too, I guess. But ladies, the battle to do good in this world and fight evil is doubly hard than that of men.

So let me thank all the women who are standing up against martial law. No, it does not make them automatically anti-government, they just see a better way.

Thank you, women who are standing up against extrajudicial killings. No, they are not automatically drugpushers, they just see no healing in killing.

Thank you, women who are volunteering to help IDPs of Marawi even if your own families are in dire need of help in so many ways. No, they are not automatically doing it for money or popularity, they are better humans and helping keeps them sane.

Thank you, women for not laughing at jokes against humanity and curses against mothers. No, they are not grumpy, they do not appreciate the evil humor behind these practices.

Thank you, women who chose to stand for justice even if they stood alone. No you did not. We are with you underneath the same big sky.

May Allah swt guide us always. He alone we worship and He alone we ask for help. He alone we thank for creating humans – women in particular.

Zahria Mapandin is the Executive Director of the Al Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF) Inc, a women’s organisation based in Marawi City, Philippines. AMDF is one of the local partners of Oxfam.