by Imelda V. Abaño
Unfortunately, women are still kept away from the table when decisions that affect their lives are made. This is especially true in areas of conflict, which Muslim Mindanao has been for at least 35 years. The second largest island located in the southern part of the Philippines, Mindanao is home to some 16 million people. By some accounts, insurgency began back in the 1960s, when the central government in Manila declared a "homestead" policy which encouraged Christian migration to Mindanao; settlers from Luzon and Visayas began to occupy the ancestral land of the Moros and other indigenous people in Southern Philippines.
In times of war and during the peace process, women have played key roles, particularly in the protection of their rights and those of their children.
Mindanao has long been considered the poorest island, having the highest incidence of poverty of any region in the Philippines. Continual armed conflict has only aggravated that poverty.