PeaceWoman of the Month
Philippine Peace Activist
Irene M. Santiago initiated the global campaign on women, peace and security called #Women.Seriously! in 2014. By organizing “Women’s Peace Tables” all around the world, the campaign’s aim is that women’s indispensable role in achieving durable peace be taken seriously. This month she will take part in the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, organizing several campaign activities. Irene Santiago is one of the few women in the world with actual experience in formal peace negotiations, having been a member of the Philippine government panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front from 2001 to 2004.
Her activism goes back forty years, having begun the day two drunken soldiers broke into her seminar hall and opened fire with their M-16 rifles. In front of her eyes, 20 women and 23 children cowered for safety, terrified. It was in the mid-1970s, at the height of the secessionist rebellion waged by the Moro National Liberation Front against the Philippine government. “Yes, I was scared,” she admits, “but I realized that I could be scared and still be brave. I was able to make those soldiers go away. So now being scared doesn’t stop me from doing anything.” Besides many other achievements, Irene Santiago was the executive director of the highly successful NGO Forum on Women in China in 1995. As the parallel NGO event to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, the Forum will be remembered for its impact on the issues that confronted women at the end of the last century and continue to confront them today.