Changing Militarized Societies through Gender-Sensitive Peace Education

Author(s): Loreta Navarro-Castro

Presented at the Conference on “Gender and Militarism” co-organized by the Women Peacemakers Program (The Netherlands) and Center for Peace Education of Miriam College, 7-8 December 2015

Wars and other forms of violence persist among and within countries. Because of this reality, many places in the world today, including in our Asian region, are devoid of true human security. Many have asserted that this condition is the result of a global culture of domination and patriarchy.

Renowned feminist and peace educator Betty Reardon asserts two propositions. The first of these is the proposition that if human security is to be achieved, patriarchy has to be replaced by gender equality and a new thinking about power, because patriarchy privileges a minority of men who cause harm to those over whom they have power. The second proposition is about the ultimate abolition of war as an institution, in favor of nonviolent structures and processes for resolving conflicts.[1] It is the war system that is at the core of the thinking and patterns of behavior that have produced so-called militarized societies, characterized by huge military forces and military expenditures, development of more and more destructive weaponry and constant readiness for combat. The results of this war system are all too well known; the costs are unspeakable human suffering and deaths, appalling material and ecological destruction as well as great misuse of resources and talents that could be placed in the service of true human security and total human development.

In the light of the above premises and the continuing challenges in our country, we at the Center for Peace Education (CPE), have conceptualized peace education as education that transforms mindsets, attitudes and values as well as behaviors that bring about and/or exacerbate violent conflicts. Hence, it is education that promotes nonviolence and the nonviolent resolution of conflicts from the personal to national to global levels as well as promotes human and ecological well-being, which includes just structures and relationships at various levels. This view of peace education springs from our understanding of peace as both the absence of violence and the presence of justice. Because of this holistic focus on transforming mindsets, values and behaviors, we speak of peace education as education toward a culture of peace.

We have attempted to be holistic in our educational approach and so the content themes of peace education that we have included in our education and teacher-training work reflect this goal. The themes would typically include the following themes and topics:

  • Promoting Spiritual and Faith Traditions as Resources for Peace
  • Upholding Human Dignity
  • Affirming Diversity and Challenging Prejudice
  • Challenging the War System
  • Nonviolent Conflict Resolution (Negotiation & Mediation Skills); Challenging Bullying
  • Challenging Sexism and Promoting Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding
  • Sharing the Earth’s Resources Equitably
  • Campaigning for Disarmament
  • Cultivating Inner Peace

The pedagogy or teaching-learning process that we have used also seeks to be holistic. It tries to address the cognitive, affective and active dimensions of the youth or adult learner. A usual procedure includes the introduction of new or reinforced knowledge, posing valuing questions and using participatory methods to cultivate awareness, concern and encourage appropriate personal and social action. “Touch the minds and hearts, and encourage the will to act” is a mantra that we use to indicate this process. Part of the process is of course to challenge and unlearn the militarized patterns of thinking and acting. For example, there is a mindset that dictates that war is a natural part of life because violence is innate in our human nature. This has to be challenged because this mindset perpetuates the war system. And of course, there are also prevailing beliefs in some societies that promote gender inequality. And again this has to be challenged because it rejects the full humanity and the development of the full potential of both women and men.

The strategies that the CPE uses can be described in three brief categories:

  • Education and training in the formal setting and with community-based groups
  • Engaging with other sectors and stakeholders
  • Advocating and lobbying for structural changes

Education and training in the formal setting and with community-based groups:

The CPE began with school-based efforts and tried to put in the so-called “Whole School Approach,” where attention was given to the various dimensions/aspects of the school, including the school’s vision, leadership & management, curriculum, instructional processes, policies, student development programs & school culture, as well as engagement with the wider community. It is an approach that we have found strategic and effective. After gaining adequate experience in this approach, the CPE shared its experience through talks and workshops with other school educators, including with the faculty of colleges of education throughout the country. In the recent years this training work has been extended to other sectors such as community women and youth, local government units and the security sector. A requisite of the education and the training work was the production of materials that could be used as reference by the other educators and trainers. Examples would be Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace (Castro and Galace, 2008, 2010) and Women’s Leadership in Politics, Peace and Security Training Manual (WE Act 1325, 2015). It should also be noted here that the education of the students/youth and organizing them into peace clubs have proven helpful in promoting a culture of peace within the school setting and beyond.

Engagement with other sectors and stakeholders:

While the CPE started its peace education work with other school educators, it did not take long for it to see the importance of engagement and solidarity with other kindred groups to further its goal of building a culture of peace. Two years into its existence the CPE led the establishment of a local Peace Education Network (PEN) bringing together interested schools, CSOs with peace education desks and a government agency (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process or OPAPP). This evolved into bilateral and multilateral collaborative projects one of which was the CPE’s Twinning Project between Christian and Muslim Youth aimed at breaking down the barriers of prejudice between these groups that were separated by historical circumstances. The collaboration with OPAPP also resulted into the CPE’s involvement with the technical working group on Executive Order 570 of 2006, on the “Institutionalization of Peace Education into Basic Education and Teacher Education.” A more extensive engagement with more stakeholders happened when CPE took a CSO-leadership role in the formulation of the Philippine National Action Plan (PNAP) on UNSCR 1325. The CPE became the secretariat of Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WE Act 1325), a network of 34 women, human rights and peace organizations in the Philippines. The specific projects of WE Act 1325 that are being coordinated out of the CPE as national secretariat are the following:

  • Women’s Leadership in Politics, Peace and Security – a capacity-sharing project with women in conflict-affected areas to provide them with skills in advocacy, public speaking, platform development and proposal writing to help prepare them for leadership roles in government and CSOs
  • Building Capacities for Monitoring and Reporting of Armed Violence
  • Women Working for Normalization- capacity –sharing on arms control, conflict resolution, human rights, gender perspectives in Islam and IP traditions
  • Security Sector Engagement- capacity-building with the military, police, and Philippine- UN Peacekeepers on the PNAP, UNSCRs 1325 &1820, and other WPS Resolutions
  • Localization of the PNAP -working with local governments toward PNAP- aligned local legislation
  • Research or gathering of perspectives from women who are affected by the armed conflict so these can be brought to the attention of the decision-makers.

Advocating and lobbying for structural changes. Some of the efforts in collaboration with other local and global partners are:

  • The CPE and the PEN are among those who have been advocating for the mainstreaming of peace education. A minor victory came when then President Gloria M. Arroyo signed EO 570. However, its implementation needs improvement.
  • The CPE and WE Act 1325 have been active in efforts toward a Bangsamoro Basic Law that enshrines women’s meaningful participation.
  • The CPE and the Philippine Action Network to Control Arms (PhilANCA) have been working for a revised gun control law.
  • The CPE campaigned actively along with the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and the Control Arms Coalition for an Arms Trade Treaty at the UN. The Philippines has signed this but the ATT still needs to be ratified by the Philippines.
  • The CPE and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) are currently campaigning for the eventual negotiation of a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Regarding impact, the CPE has conducted micro-studies assessing the results of specific projects. The findings indicate that there have been positively-oriented changes in the beliefs and attitudes among those who have participated in the work of CPE with them. Some of these changes are on armed conflicts and the war system as well as on women’s roles and women’s rights. The changes indicate more recognition of the need to resolve conflicts nonviolently and to enable the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

[1] Betty Reardon and Asha Hans (2010). The gender imperative: human security vs. state security. New Delhi: Routledge.

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