by Nicole Hutchison


“It is only with the political leaders' genuine commitment in protecting, promoting and respecting Human Rights and upholding the rule of law that true peace can be achieved not only in Mindanao but in the Philippines in general,” says Kishra Dawabi.

Kishee — as she likes to be called — would spend weeks traveling through the islands of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu with the Regional Human Rights Commission for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) talking to folks about their access, or lack of it, to basic services like water and housing, and to the concerns of women and children, including existing gender based violence. She would also explain to them what’s available to survivors for support at the grassroots level.

Kishee, 26, is an alumni of the Isis International Activist School. Along with other young women activists from conflict and politically dangerous situations throughout East and South East Asia, she took part in the Activist School for Women Human Rights Defenders. She says the most valuable thing she has taken from the Activist School that she would like to share with others is the realization that people can be privileged or discriminated depending on several factors and learning how to make use of this to advance her advocacies.

She worked with a few NGOs before the moving on to the Regional Human Rights Commission. She was particularly involved with cases involving women, children and other persons with special concerns and promoting women’s rights. In 2013, a faction of a local rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front, stood off against the police and the armed forces in the southern city of Zamboanga City, where she grew up and lives. During and in the aftermath of the siege Kishee worked to ensure the rights of those internally displaced, and those detained.

She aspires to become a human rights lawyer in the future and is now focused on her third year of law school, while also being active with the community as part of the Young Moro Professionals Network. “I hope that the Bangsamoro [the proposed autonomous political entity to replace the ARMM] will be free from all forms of injustice, most especially against women and vulnerable sectors. I want a Muslim government that gives high priority to ensuring women’s access to justice and providing equal importance on women’s human rights.”

Kishee says she chose this line of work over the popular option of working abroad because it is her personal advocacy. She has advocated for gender equality since her university days. “My passion in what I do was fueled more when I personally experienced injustice. I realized how hard it is to attain justice being a Muslim Filipino and a woman. It felt like being a “double minority” in our country.”

One on One with Kishee Dawabi

- Why does this photo have meaning to you?
Perhaps this photo best speaks of who I am, what I do and what I want to share to others.

- What do you want people to understand through this photo?
That this is one of the many faces of the Muslim Filipino Youth that we have in our time.

- What are your thoughts on the role of justice in building peace?
There can only be peace if there is justice. The Bangsamoro people had been denied of their land, cultural heritage and history since the time of the Spaniards. Human rights violations had been continuously committed against the Bangsamoro people, one of the most notable of which is the Jabidah Massacre, leading to the creation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Until today, justice has not been served to those who died in the war of Jolo in 1974. These series of injustices had led our forefathers into bloody revolutions and endless armed conflict.

Unless justice is served (even in simple recognition and admission of the Government that they did these injustices over centuries), generations of orphans, displaced persons, widows and loved ones would be forced to engage in their last resort (violence). As an advocate for peace, I frequently remind myself and my peers that violence begets violence. And injustice fuels the cycle of violence in our communities to run from generation to generation. People would no longer resort to desperate measures to attain justice if our justice system works and government does inclusive development in the country.

Nicole Hutchison   coordinates the Isis International Activist School, which strengthens women's rights and human rights activists through communications, advocacy and movement building skills.

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