24 July 2017 – In cooperation with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of the Nanyang Technological University (RSIS-NTU), the Philippine Embassy in Singapore successfully hosted a panel discussion on “Women, Peace and Security in Southeast Asia” last 21 July at the RSIS Lecture Theatre.
This event was part of the series of activities lined up by the Embassy to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN, which coincides with the Philippines’ Chairmanship this year. This is also in line with the Gender and Development (GAD) program of the Embassy.
The panel discussion featured three impressive women representing three ASEAN countries – Dr. Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza, Assistant Professor at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Political Science Department, who discussed “women and natural disasters”; Ms. Rahimah Abdulrahim, Executive Director of the Habibie Centre in Jakarta on “women and political participation”; and Ms. Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, Programme Officer of Tenaganita Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur, on “women and human trafficking”.
Officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy, members of the diplomatic corps, including fellow ASEAN countries (i.e., Brunei, Laos, Malaysia), US embassy and the APEC Secretariat, faculty and staff of NTU, and members of the Filipino community attended the panel discussion. A buffet lunch was served after the event.
“Their presentations will give us a multi-faceted view on the immense complexity that women in our region face and what each of us, as part of a greater ASEAN, could do to build upon what has been achieved so far to ensure the rights and welfare of women,” Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Antonio A. Morales said in his opening remarks.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mely Caballero-Anthony, NTU Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, emphasized the need to highlight the multi-layered and multi-dimensional insecurities that women and girls in the ASEAN face, which are influenced by a variety of factors, including culture.
Women and Natural Disasters
Dr. Rallonza contextualized her discussion by interfacing armed conflict with natural disasters in the Philippines.
She recommended the establishment of a Regional Technical Working Group (TWG) in light of the convergence among the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre).
She added that if Women, Peace and Security, as embodied in several international and regional frameworks such as UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, “will not make a change in the lives of women, it will just be a political rhetoric.”
Women and Political Participation
Ms. Abdulrahim attributed to the predominant patriarchal culture the lack of political participation of women in certain countries.
She also highlighted the irony in the use of women by hardline Islamist groups to undermine fellow women and radicalize children and the younger generation.
She added that to ensure the success of espousing women’s rights and their political participation, there still needs to be the involvement of men nonetheless.
Women and Human Trafficking
Ms. Maliamauv defined slavery as not just “the exploitation of labor, but also the control of bodies.”
At a time when there is increased export of labor, this also leads to the commodification of bodies, according to the speaker.
She recommended that if ASEAN is to pursue women’s rights, then this should include those women that we do not ordinarily see, and to recognize the multiple identities of trafficked women (i.e., as a mother, daughter, wife, etc.) to humanize them.
“(If we are to) change the world, we have to define first the change that we want to make,” Ms. Maliamauv said as a closing testament.