Filipino women take lead in resolving Mindanao conflict

Simon Tisdall – Guardian – Friday, 15 February 2013 (originally published 13 Feb)

Teresita 'Ging' Quintos Deles shakes hands with soldiers
Teresita ‘Ging’ Quintos Deles meets with soldiers: the presidential advisor has become known for her inclusive approach in the Mindanao peace process. Image: Aaron Favila/AP

The idea that a woman can mediate successfully between armed groups of hostile men, and that one of these groups comprises hardline, sharia-touting Islamists, might seem far-fetched to traditional western societies. But not so in the Philippines, where not one but two women have taken the lead in resolving the long-running Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.

Teresita Quintos Deles, below, a former teacher, women’s rights advocate and anti-poverty tsar known popularly as ‘Ging’, was re-appointed presidential adviser on the peace process by President Benigno Aquino in July, 2010. Since then, her steady and patient hand has guided the combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their government interlocutors towards a historic peace deal that both sides now regard as all but inevitable.

If one word sums up Deles’s approach, it is “inclusive”. Interviewed in her office in Manila, she speaks eloquently of the need to ensure that all those affected by the agreement, high and low, have ownership of the process. “As in all peace processes, there is a symbiotic relationship between the people on the ground and the negotiators,” she said. “Both parties are expected to deliver on that belief. We are creating a virtuous cycle, it is building. So we are hopeful we will get there” . . .

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