The history of women’s struggle for our rights and freedoms is inseparable from the history of the Bangsamoro’s struggle for our right to self-determination. At every crossroad, Bangsamoro women have been at the frontlines of defending our land and people.
And yet spaces for women’s political expression and participation remain limited in a society that remains defined by prejudice and discrimination. Women are often viewed as weak and inferior, or as property that loses value if they do not conform to sexist notions of marriage and child-rearing. Instead of being treated as human beings with equal rights, their rights continue to be denied in a patriarchal society that oppresses and marginalizes women in the guise of protection and stewardship.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day captures the vision we have for women in the Bangsamoro: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” As we pursue a political transition towards a just and equitable society, it is imperative that we make room for women to assert their rights and participate in building a Bangsamoro that lives up to our people’s continuous struggle for equality and justice. Any political exercise that excludes or silences women cannot possibly succeed in truly representing the people, and it is in the Bangsamoro’s best interest to uplift women, amplify their voices, and support their struggle for equal rights and representation.
On International Women’s Day, let us not just merely recognize the potential of women and girls. Let us give them the space and resources necessary for them to realize this potential, as they embrace their own power – one that has fueled the collective strength and courage of our people. Only then can we make genuine progress possible, as we strive for just and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro and the rest of the world.