With or without emergencies, Noraida Abo seldom stays at the office of the United Youth of the Philippines-Women (UnYPhil-Women), a local women’s rights organization she currently heads in the southern region of the Philippines. Her organization is also providing life-saving aid such as cash-for-food, water, sanitation and hygiene to people displaced by the decades-old cyclical armed conflict in Maguindanao. The project is being implemented with the support of Oxfam and the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.
“Failing to address injustices against the Bangsamoro people, socio-economic disparities, discrimination, and disenfranchisement from political processes will allow conflict to spark anew. Women and youth must play a meaningful role in shaping the agenda in the response to the coronavirus, and also in building a lasting peace,” she said.
From the very start, Elizabeth knew her heart is made for humanitarian work. She pursued a degree in social work despite her father’s disapproval. He wanted her to take up forestry, but Elizabeth’s desire to work with communities, where help is needed most, proved stronger than family and social expectations. Eventually, she was able to convince her father to support her decision.
Two decades later, Elizabeth continues to help communities in conflict-affected Mindanao access services from the government, such as water, electricity, and livelihoods. “That was the first time I saw how our community organizing interventions helped restore the trust and dignity of people. By journeying together with them, I came to understand their struggles and issues better, and at the same time, became an inspiration for them to move forward,” she said.
Meet Mary Ruth Maguindanao of IDEALS, a legal-focused advocacy and service organization and a local partner of Oxfam in various humanitarian responses. Ruth uses her legal knowledge to provide critical legal documents to people displaced by the armed conflict in Maguindanao, Philippines.
“We saw that half of the population had no birth certificates.” For the children of Mindanao, birth certificates help protect their right to claim their names, access education, and identify as part of the Bangsamoro community. This, in turn, cultivates a society that thrives on peace and equality.
Dr. Nymraida Marohombsar
Dr. Nymraida Marohombsar, a municipal health officer based in the rural health unit (RHU) of the conflict-affected Datu Odin Sinsuat since 1992, oversees the entire health program for mothers and babies. She is the best person to ask about the sexual and reproductive health needs and challenges faced by all 32 barangays in her municipality.
Despite all the challenges, Nymraida is not leaving her post any time soon. “I love my job. It’s my passion to help the underprivileged and the poor. Seeing the smile of every constituent of Datu Odin Sinsuat and getting more people to ask for health services are experiences no amount of money could ever replace” she said.