Using the transition to work for sustainable peace: Philippines

The armed conflict over self-determination between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Muslim majority region of Mindanao lasted more than 50 years. Women were already driving forces in the peace process. Since the 2014 peace agreement, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has been under development. This is now a key moment for women to anchor their demands for a gender-equal society within the new political and social structures.


The peace agreement in 2014 between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front ended more than 50 years of armed struggle for self-determination in the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao. It was one of the oldest armed struggles for independence in the world and claimed more than 100,000 lives. One of the main reasons for the conflict was the mass migration of Christian settlers into the ancestral territories of Muslim and non-Muslim indigenous peoples in the first decade of the 20th century.

The peace negotiations lasted 17 years. PeaceWoman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer was the chief negotiator and the first woman in the world to co-sign a major peace agreement. It took another five years for a law establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to be passed in March 2019. Since then, the transitional government has faced the challenge of simultaneously achieving political and fiscal autonomy for the region and building peaceful communities after the long conflict.

Participation of women in the peace process

Thanks to pressure from women activists, in addition to PeaceWoman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, two other women took part in the negotiations. Together they ensured that women – including those under 30 – were represented in both negotiating bodies. Women's organisations and networks actively supported the negotiations and, after the agreement was concluded, lobbied both houses of Congress for legislation that would most consistently implement the provisions of the peace agreement.

Women peace negotiators advocated for women's rights to meaningful political participation in the transitional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in Mindanao. Thanks to activists' engagement, the government decreed that each office must allocate 5% of its budget to the advancement of women. In addition, the Bangsamoro Women's Commission, which is responsible for gender equality measures, was established in 2020.

Our projects

This phase of building the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is a crucial moment for Muslim and indigenous women to define their demands for a gender-equitable society and anchor them in the new government structures.

Our project partner the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute (GZOPI), based in Manila, has been organising local Women's Peace Tables in the three main BARMM areas in the southern region of Mindanao since 2015. The Women's Peace Tables (WPT) were also attended by parliamentarians and transitional justice professionals, but mainly by women from the conflict-affected region, including Christian settlers and indigenous women.

Through local and national WPT and advocacy activities, we continue to work with GZOPI to ensure that women play an active role in conflict transformation and peacebuilding, helping to shape a gender-equitable and sustainable peace. The project will continue for the duration of the transitional government, which has been extended by three years until 2025.

Women from civil society organisations for peace, human rights and development who were affected by the conflict take part in the events, which last several days. The participants work together, processing the violence experienced during the conflict, learn through workshops how they can use the transitional justice mechanisms laid down in the peace agreement to transform the conflict, and develop advocacy strategies. Key figures from the government and administration as well as the media are also invited so that women's concerns reach decision-makers. Some of the WPT also include public forums and awareness-raising events.

An important component of the first project phase which ended in mid-2021 was an exchange of knowledge and experience between the partners in Colombia, Nepal and the Philippines. The exchange began in 2019 with a first face-to-face meeting and reached an interim conclusion in 2021 with the joint development of the publication "From transition to transformation: strengthening women's effective participation in peacebuilding and transitional justice processes". This knowledge exchange will be continued in our project "From exchange to change".