“This is happening. It’s really really true. Habang sinasabi natin na [while we might say that] gender-based violence is not going on in Lanao del Sur”, wala kasi tayong [that’s because we have no] basis because it is not reported, and be it part of the advocacy to let this concern surface.” -
Johaena “Jehan” Marcom
Pushing forward with the goal of ending gender-based violence (GBV) in their community, Johaena “Jehan” Marcom, Marantao’s Planning and Development Coordinator along with their local ending-gender-based-violence (EGBV) champion, Diamond Abinal, are heading the charge in amplifying generations’ worth of suppressed voices in a culture where silence is encouraged.
A survivor of child marriage, Diamond was married off to a relative at 13 years old under the belief that a better life awaited her with his family. One year later, at the age of 14, she gave birth to their first child and promptly bid her childhood a permanent goodbye.
When USAId and Plan International’s Marawi Response Project (MRP) found their way to Marantao and reached out to Jehan’s office to collaborate with them towards uplifting women’s rights and welfare, Diamond gathered her courage and volunteered to train under them and join their journey in ending gender-based violence in their community.
Throughout their 4-year run, one event stood out to Diamond. It was during their second ending-GBV rollout in her barangay of Mantapoli when a young girl in her early teens came up to her and asked for her help. She told Diamond about her parents’ plans on marrying her off at a young age and begged her to talk to them on her behalf. She wanted to finish her education first, get a degree, and build a life for herself before entertaining the thought of marriage.
As someone who had the very same opportunities taken away from her, Diamond always knew that her work with the MRP was a noble cause, but it wasn’t until she saw her 13-year-old self reflected in the young girl - someone who was scared, who still had their whole life waiting for them, whose life as a woman hadn’t even begun yet - staring back at her that it fully dawned on her just how important this cause was. With new vigor, she continued advocating for women’s rights within their community and with the help of MRP and Jehan’s office, they were able to establish Referral Pathways not only in her local village of Mantapoli but throughout Marantao in the hopes of combating GBV.
As the president of Matarantis a Baes, an all-women community solidarity group (CDG) and a member of the Marantao Women’s Association, the municipal sectoral federation for women formed through the help of MRP, Diamond is devoted to ensuring that no child nor woman will ever have to experience what she went through ever again.
With the help of her fellow ending-GBV advocate and local MPDC, Jehan, they are able to continuously look for ways to strengthen their referral pathways within and throughout the municipality of Marantao. Jehan’s office also received a grant from the MRP which they utilize in their fight against gender-based violence.
To fully hammer down the importance and urgency of their advocacy, Jehan shared a recent case involving a young girl who was impregnated by her own father. This just proves to show that violence against women and children is and always has been present, just never fully recognized and addressed.
She emphasized that it is the culture of silence that has enabled cases of gender-based violence to continue to propagate and it is that exact culture that they are trying to eradicate with the help of MRP through their Referral Pathways and training seminars.
Both women expressed their gratitude to USAID, Plan International, and MARADECA, the Marantao People Development Center Incorporated, for enabling and supporting their movement and their advocacy. Were it not for them, Diamond would never have gotten the courage nor the platform to stand up for her inner child’s rights as well as the rights of every other young girl in their community, and Jehan’s office would never have gotten the funding it needs to address the calls of the public against GBV.
Throughout history, women have always been on the short end of the stick when it came to rights and representation, and while there are been many iconic and world-altering movements in the past, in a culture as conservative as the Maranao, small steps like the ones Diamond and Jehan are making are already causing tremors in the long-standing system of female repression. Both women assure that while MRP is coming to an end, the impact it had on their lives and community will continue to ripple until future generations will no longer need programs like theirs to live their lives to the fullest. (PJF/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)