The voice of an empowered woman can nurture a society where peace, inclusivity, and equality thrive. In celebration of this year’s Women’s Month, we take a special glance towards one of EAI Philippines’ Peace Promotion Fellows, Sahanee Panolong, from Butig, Lanao del Sur, on her views towards women in advocacy.
“I believe that women are essential to the health and social development of families and communities. It is innate for women to empathize and understand various situations happening in the society. In Islam, there are many women leaders who are great in delivering good services and they communicate well to the people at the grassroots and those in position,” Sahanee shares her advocacy’s inspiration.
As a Moro, Sahanee has witnessed the prevalence of gender norms in the community that disproports women. “There are limitations even in communicating with people, especially the opposite gender. It is not encouraged for us to be in the spotlight or to be in front of many men while speaking,” she shares.
Sahanee, although still in her youth, is already keen on voicing out the present realities women in her community face with utmost respect for her culture. “To give a solution, I try to put a facemask everytime I speak in front and even lower the volume of my voice. We try to make everything according to what our religion teaches us to do,” she added.
Despite these struggles, Sahanee elaborates that the Muslim community believes in equity and in giving what is due to women. This equity can be used to give women and girls the opportunity to make important decisions, to access necessary government services, and to experience safe spaces in her immediate community. She believes that when her message is amplified on a wider scale, this equity can encourage more women to step into their power and potential.
“An empowered woman can help build a peaceful society through creating and giving access to equal opportunities and resources available in the government and other offices,” says Sahanee on her vision of what an empowered woman can be.
The world is still unsafe for women and the fight for their rights and space in society continues. Until then, Sahanee notes that women all over the world should keep pursuing various stories and experiences that life can teach them, “It will be easier to understand and provide solutions when we know what went wrong and what causes a certain problem.”
When asked what her message is for young girls and women like her who dream of an equal, safe, and progressive future she says…
“Being a woman will not hinder you to become what you want to be in the future. We can be the safe space of any individual. We are the partners in sustaining a progressive community. We are given high status in Islam. Ikaw ay babae, hindi basta babae lang.”
Written by Jam Emano, EAI PH Staff Intern