Mary Ann Arnado
Mary Ann Arnado

Cagayan de Oro-born lawyer Mary Ann Arnado of the Philippines was recently awarded the First World Vision Peacemaking Award on the International Day of Peace.

The Peace Prize recognises individuals and organisations that have made unique contributions toward the promotion of peace in their communities and beyond.

Mary Ann Arnado has received the award for her work with the Mindanao people in the Philippines. Her understanding of the long-running internal conflict affecting Mindanaons has helped her to bridge the gap between indigenous women and youth and community leaders, promoting peace.

As a lawyer and for several years the deputy director of Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a regional institution that promotes solidarity among the peoples of Southeast Asia, Mary Ann Arnado coordinated the grassroots peacebuilding and peace advocacy program in Mindanao, with the goal of promoting the participation of women in the peace process between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In that capacity, Arnado organized the successful Bantay Ceasefire monitoring team, worked directly in zones of conflict to educate warring factions on international humanitarian law and human rights and was appointed by the government peace panel to serve as an official advisor on ancestral domain.

Arnado is also the secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), a grassroots network of the Bangsamoro, indigenous peoples and Christian settlers, which seeks to promote indigenous peacemaking mechanisms and facilitate dialogue. During the Buliok War of 2003, Arnado helped mobilize over 10,000 IDPs who were demanding an immediate ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF, a demand heeded by both sides. She recently participated in the International Women’s Peace and Solidarity Mission to Basilan to investigate the recurrence of violence and the situation of the displaced in the region.

Arnado was instrumental in the success of the Basilan incident fact-finding mission, formed in response to the beheading of 14 members of the AFP, and comprised of representatives from the AFP, MILF and Bantay Ceasefire. Her insistence that the investigators visit the actual site of the incident resulted in the correct identification of the offending party. Arnado’s participation in this mission further articulated the need to openly address issues of sexual violence as a result of conflict. With cultural norms dictating otherwise, Arnado is examining avenues to bring this issue to light in order for true root causes and ramifications of conflict to be incorporated into peace processes.

In 2009 Arnado was awarded the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Fellowship for Professional Development in Public Service by the U.S. Embassy in Manila, given to Filipinos who have shown courage and commitment to truth in journalism and public service.

Arnado was a Woman PeaceMaker in 2005.

Download “One Woman’s Life, One Thousand Women’s Voices“, a Narrative of the Life and Work of Mary Ann Arnado of the Philippines by Maia Woodward, Peace Writer

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