You are here

MANILA, The Philippines,  10 August 2020 --- The government of New Zealand will provide the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Philippines with a grant amounting to 400,000 New Zealand Dollars (approximately 13.1 million Pesos or 266,700 US Dollars) to support the efforts of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Regional in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to further strengthen its capacity to integrate the Bangsamoro women in peace-building process as well as prevent and respond to gender-based violence child marriage in the region.


The Arrangement for the project, “Capacity Development of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Cadre and Reintegration/ Transformation of Female Ex-Combatants into Gender-related Social Service Work for Sustained Peace in BARMM,” was signed on 10 August 2020 at the Embassy of New Zealand in Makati City, Metro Manila, between H.E. Mr. Peter Kell, Ambassador of New Zealand to the Philippines, and Mr. Iori Kato, UNFPA Country Representative to the Philippines.


The project aims to assist the reintegration of former female members of the MILF-BIAF from the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB) by transforming them into the community-level service providers as “social welfare aides” to provide support to municipal social welfare officers on responding to gender-based violence and also advocate for the prevention of child marriage. These trained social welfare aides will be assigned to all 36 municipalities of Maguindanao and Cotabato City.


“Normalization is an integral part of the peace process in the Bansamoro, and the participation of women and young girls in that process is critical to make it a success. That is why we appreciate  this project of UNFPA supported by New Zealand as it allows women, including the former members of BIWAB, to use their strength and leadership skills to protect and empower other women, as well as supports our institutional system strengthening, amid this difficult time of COVID-19 and other challenges. MSSD ensures that social services and social protection are felt at the ground level, says Atty. Ms. Raissa Jajurie, Minister of BARMM Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD)


“New Zealand’s support is arriving at the very time when more allies are needed to empower and protect women and young people in BARMM, especially for their freedom from violence and meaningful participation in the humanitarian-development-peacebuilding nexus,” underscored Mr. Kato, UNFPA Country Representative.


The indirect effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are further compounding the pre-existing underlying vulnerabilities and challenges faced by women and young girls globally, and the Philippines is not an exception.  The effects of this pandemic such as economic pressures and quarantine measures are disrupting those efforts to curtail gender-based violene incluidng child marriage, and as women and girls are more likely to be exposed to abusers for longer periods, 2020 may end up seeing as much as 20% increase in the cases of gender-based violence compared to pre-COVID 2019, according to a joint study of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and UNFPA Philippines.


“COVID-19 should not be a barrier to gender equality and inclusive growth in BARMM. Addressing sexual and gender-based violence within the wider context of the Women, Peace and Security agenda is central to sustainable development,” Mr. Kato continued.  “For this, I would like to thank the Embassy of New Zealand for giving us a helping hand. My sincere appreciation to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for its continuous and unwavering support to UNFPA in empowering women.”


New Zealand has been a longstanding partner of UNFPA, having provided multi-year core funding to the global operations of UNFPA for years. In 2018, New Zealand’s contributions to UNFPA core resources reached US$ 5.2 million, ranked the fourth top donor in terms of core funding contributions per capita.  While this is the first collaboration between the Government of New Zealand and UNPA in the Philippines, this project further deepens New Zealand’s support to UNPFA in helping to reduce the maternal death rates, combat violence against women and girls, eliminate child marriage and improve demographic data for national planning. New Zealand recognizes that investing in health is crucial for human and economic development.  The New Zealand Ambassador, Mr. Peter Kell shared, “When we promote women empowerment, we all stand to benefit. We are hopeful that this Activity will empower female ex-combatants as they contribute towards a sustained peace in BARMM.”