Rights of Indigenous Women

*This is an excerpt from PKKK’s Rural Women Status Report on CEDAW 2011.

When the Rural Women Agenda was consolidated, it was the tri-people women in Mindanao who intensely articulated the concern for the fulfilment of property rights in ancestral domain (Agenda 2) and the pursuit of peace agenda in Mindanao (Agenda 8).[1]

In the Philippines,  there are 15 to 20 million indigenous peoples or 12 to 16% of the total 80 million  140 ethno-linguistic groups.[2]  They can be found in 50 of the country’s 78 provinces. Currently, the NCIP roughly estimates the number of IPs in the Philippines to 110 groups or tribes with an estimated total population of around 12 million found in the various parts of the country based on a listing done in 19964.  Region XI has the highest total population with about 2.5 million, followed by Regions X has 1.4 million and CAR has 1.3 million.[3]

Despite the passage of IPRA and the creation of NCIP to effectively enforce the law, many ethnic groups are still struggling over the ownership and control of their ancestral lands.[4] Based on the NCIP report[5], of the total 6 million hectare target of ancestral domains, only 20 percent had been accomplished from 2002 until 2007. This constitutes 58 CADTs and 172 CALTs issued covering 1,209,479.2434 hectares with 263,060 rights holders. Conflicting government policies, complicated procedural guidelines, budgetary constraints, overlapping boundaries and tenurial instruments are but a few reasons delaying delineation and titling.

Indigenous Women

Indigenous women continue to claim their participation in decision making.  CEDAW and MCW push further that their voices be heard and considered in community concerns, considering that male members of the indigenous community often comprise the council of elders.

Recent developments cited that indigenous women organize and influence traditional justice systems, as in the case of the Teduray Lambangian Women Organization Inc.  These women settle divorce cases, prosecute VAWC offenders, participate in public hearing for ancestral domain claims and engage in Peace and Development issues in Mindanao.  They pushed for a community-based measure (Temporary Special Measure) against Early Marriage and oppressive situations of polygamy.

It was cited in TLWOI’s 2010 research that these women continue to air their concern on the: lack of electricity in Upi and South Upi; limited health services, reproductive health services, health facilities and personnel; high illiteracy in Barangay Rifao and Itao; cheating tactics of politicians for illiterate population impacts of climate change on crops and livelihood; unsafe drinking water due to mine tailings; displacement due to armed conflict of military, MILF, MNLF, NPA; and early marriage.

There is a high incidence of early–arranged marriage in Teduray communities. Children as young as 9 to 11 years old had been arranged to marry. However, the incidence could be attributed more to the economic pressure rather than culture, i.e. in many cases, dowry served as stop-gap measure in addressing the family’s survival needs.

Indigenous women are not spared from the issue of trafficking and prostitution. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women shared that Indigenous women trafficked came from the following ethnic groups:  B’laan, T’Boli, Kaulo, while the Moro’s are Maranao, Mandaya, Badjao, Sama, Manobo and Lumad.[6]   Documentatlists thought that the culture  of silence in the ethnic groups prevent women and their families from reporting victimization to trafficking and prostitution. (Jean Enriquez, 2007)

The 2011 National Women IP gathering in South Cotabato presented a series of issues of indigenous women.  These include: discrimination as indigenous peoples, non recognition of traditional care for women’s health and reproductive health, problematic implementation of 4 Ps, degradation of the environment, threat to life of indigenous women leaders.

In the 5th PKKK Congress, rural women observed that there are division among Indigenous Peoples in terms of Free Prior Informed Consent before a mining company can operate in one community.  This destroys the collective and communal way of life of the indigenous peoples.

Peace and Development

Peace is not just the absence of armed conflict according to rural women leaders of the 5th Congress, it is also a matter of safety.   There is a need to expand the Peace Agenda. Lack of peace is a threat to a woman’s life, it may be in the form of criminality, harassment or armed conflict.

The Peace issue in ARMM  has alarmed the CEDAW committee. In the 2006, CEDAW Concluding Comments to the Philippines. As cited from the Committee Report, paragraph 29 states;

The Committee expresses its concern about the precarious situation of rural and indigenous women, as well as the Muslim women in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, who lack access to adequate health services, education, clean water and sanitation services and credit facilities. The Committee is also concerned about women’s limited access to justice in cases of violence, especially in conflict zones, and the lack of sanctions against the perpetrators of such violence….[7]

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has named a woman representative  Atty. Raissa Jajurie or Bai Cabaybay Abubakar, as the MILF’s “first ever woman member” in the panel talking peace with the government. [8] Jun Mantawil,  said that they  see the importance of the views of a professional Muslim woman in our quest for peace, thus the decision to name one.


 [1]               PKKK. Cedaw and Rural Women Agenda: Indigenous Peoples .2010.

[2]               AIWN.Asian Women Indigenous Network. 2007.

[3]               www.nscb.gov.ph

[4]               PKKK. Cedaw and Rural Women Agenda: Indigenous Peoples .2010.

[5]               NCIP Annual Report CY 2007, p. 22

[6] Jean Enriquez. Documenting Cases of Violence Against Women, Particularly Trafficking and Prostitution. 2007.

[7] Concluding Comments of the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Philippines    36th session, 7-25 August 2006

[8] http://www.zamboangatoday.ph/index.php/news/13-top-stories/7424-milf-names-first-woman-peace-panelist.html


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