A young community worker who helps women-traders enhance their trading skills, a volunteer that saved some 1,700 lives during the Marawi siege, and a rugby coach to less-privileged children are among young leaders from various parts of Mindanao who will be departing on Friday to Wellington, New Zealand for a four-month leadership program.
Entitled the Mindanao Young Leaders Programme (MinYLP), the program is supported by the New Zealand government in collaboration with International Alert Philippines and Victoria University of Wellington. It aims to expose these young scholars to new ideas and institutions, inspire them to think critically about what they can apply in their own communities, and develop their research, evaluation and communication skills to contribute in the sustainable and peaceful development of their communities.
In an interview, Diana Jean Moraleda, Senior Communications and Social Media Officer of International Alert Philippines said these young leaders were selected based on the tools they presented to analyze the conflict situation in their communities and different dynamics and institutions that are working in their own context.
“These are all leaders. When we did the selection processes we also wanted their commitment that is why there is a special course in the program where they will be able to explore their particular interest in New Zealand at the same time they will have the opportunity to create their own proposal for the projects that they will implement here,” said Moraleda.
The scholars will also explore their particular areas of interest, develop and refine a research question on these topics, and prepare a proposal for a practical “change project” that can be undertaken on their return home.
“We look into the potentials of these projects. If these will contribute change in the community in terms of development, better lives, and resiliency in conflict and context and sensitivity. The change projects are not compulsory but optional when they come back and they will be provided with small grants,” Moraleda said.
Hailing from Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, Sharifa Ain Abdulmajid Lipae (Ain) is a project officer of Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women Association Inc, a women’s group that promotes socio-economic stability for small women traders that ply maritime borders between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Cross-border trade is a lifeline and revenue source for conflict -affected far-flung communities that are not easily reached by government development programs and private investments.
With her organization, she helps women traders enhance their entrepreneurial skills, links them to financing facilities from both government and private sector, strengthens their trade organizations, and provide support to their advocacy for cross-border’s traders’ formalization into the regulated economy while helping ensure that government and non-government interventions do not exacerbate violent conflict.
“Poverty is one of the main problems in Tawi-Tawi. It is very rich in natural resources we have abundant supply of fishes as well as bananas that we can use manufacture items that we can export. But women traders don’t have the skills to process these items to be exported to Malaysia and Indonesia. I am helping them through the help of International Alert,” Lipae said in an interview during the sendoff dinner reception at Marco Polo Davao, Tuesday.
She equipped these women with weaving skills and skills on how to process fishes to become fish crackers and chili paste.
While in New Zealand, she is keen to learn how non-government organizations and the government support socio-economic empowerment and women leadership.
When she comes back, Lipae hopes to hone these women-traders on entrepreneurship through entrepreneurial training and teach them how to interact and establish linkages with stakeholders.
23-year old Abubakar De Juan Basman (Abs) from Marawi City was part of the white helmets volunteer rescue group that saved some 1,700 lives by going into the battle zone during the Marawi siege in 2017.
“Nagfocus ako sa pagtulong under the database management especially those who were rescued and casualties that we retrieved noong siege. Sa ilang buwan na pag volunteer ko up until now, I engaged more sa evacuation centers especially tent cities and itong temporary shelters,” he said.
Volunterism became his tool to connect and partner with the academe to help more particularly on the recovery stage. He said being selected for MinYLP will give hime the opportunity to improve his skills.
“Ang problema namin sa province not just n Marawi but Lanao del Sur, hindi pa bukas sa isipan ng mga tao ang maging disaster ready kaya karamihan sa amin ay hindi nakapaghanda ng pag-evacuate” he said.
After the training, he hopes to establish a youth early response network where there will be series of camps to each municipality as his change program.
“Hopefully the participants will learn disaster management and conflict resolution and also to get involve on preventing violence and conflicts,” he said.
Hilton Lanuza Soberano is the club manager of the Davao Durian Rugby Football Club which he aims to inspire and provide opportunities for growth through a comprehensive grassroots development program with emphasis on inclusivity.
The club engages with local government, private sector, NGOs, families and volunteers to achieve this.
Soberano is responsible for strategic and operational activities and is an educator for club leaders as well as younger participants.
“When I applied for the program, I slowly exposed to the several issues of various parts in Mindanao. Basically sports is one tool that can help peace efforts and development. I want to tap on that,” he said.
While in New Zealand, he wants to learn what their government is doing, tools they are using and techniques using sports as a platform for peace and development.
Doing a caravan involving those in far-flung areas as an initial project he wants to do after the program.
“Young and adults have innate to play. Using sports now as a platform to involve different groups, mawawala yung mga barriers and misconceptions of one tribe or religions,” h said.
He is also planning to tap the Philippine Sports Commission-Mindanao for his project.
Other scholars who will be joining Lipae, Basman, and Soberano in Wellington are Alexis Yonson from Cagayan de Oro City, Rohanie Ibra Amer from Marawi City, Malaya Genotiva from Davao City, Ben Raye Marco from Pigcawayan in North Cotabato, and Sanny Priann Justo from Esperanza in Agusan del Sur.
David Strachan , New Zealand Ambassador t the Philippines personally led the sent-off ceremony of the scholars. He assured that New Zealand is committed to do what it can to support peace and stability in Mindanao.
New Zealand has allocated more than P97 million for the project and over the next five years, the MinYLP will continue to support youth leaders from Mindanao who will take part in the programme in New Zealand.
On his end, Vicente Lao, New Zealand Honorary Consul to Mindanao is optimistic that the scholars can learn from what the best of New Zealand has to offer and share these solutions for the development of Mindanao.
International Alert, which is a peacebuilding organization, has been working directly with conflict-affected communities in Mindanao by ensuring that the voices of different members of society especially the marginalized are respected and valued in decision-making and state-building processes.