Growing up in the rural side of Maguindanao, Philippines, Hasna has seen the various challenges that young girls like her continue to face. From lack of education opportunities to being forced in early marriage, one thing Hasna always knew for sure, she was destined for more.
“Most of the women from my mother’s side did not finish education, or finished elementary only. While on my father’s side, many of them prioritized education,” Hasna shared.
Although Moro families, like Hasna grew up in, are usually highly patriarchal and restrictive for girls, Hasna’s father gave her the space and encouragement to achieve what she wanted.
“In my younger years, I had this perception that women or girls are just destined to be in the confines of their homes – to be housewives. I came to believe it as I’ve seen this usual situation in my community. But my father really valued education,” she added.
Based on her own experiences, Hasna strongly believes that when girls are educated, they become aware of their rights, and opportunities are more visible. Wanting to ensure other girls could benefit as she had, she joined the Bangsamoro Youth Peacebuilding (BYP), a project led by one of Equal Access International Philippines’ Peace Promotion Fellows in Cotabato City.
“BYP is an eye opener to me. It showed me the real struggles happening in grassroots communities. I am now more involved on issues relating to peace and conflict,” Hasna shared.
With armed conflict and instability growing in the Philippines, Hasna and her peers face growing challenges on a daily basis. Early in October, this year, she had to come home and get her younger cousins and nephews to a safer place as some armed groups have swarmed the area.
“Sounds of gunshots were everywhere. I cannot help but worry how the situation might impact these kids (her cousins and nephews)”, an emotional Hasna recalled.
And how does a young woman like Hasna rise above all of these challenges?
“I cannot fight using guns. What I can do is to know how to negotiate and make my voice heard. I believe women are good at negotiating, and I want to be good at it too”, she added.
At present, Hasna continues to use her voice and skills to advocate for peace. She also volunteers in humanitarian activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked how she visions an equal future for girls…
“A future where girls never have to doubt their strength and where each girl gets to decide their purpose in life and their value in the community”.
This story was first published at equalaccess.org as one of the feature stories in celebration of the International Day of the Girl 2020.