Maguindanao (Philippines), 25 February 2022 - “We must learn how to be open to our families for them to know how they could help us.” This is Saeda Lumeda, a social worker intern for the Ministry of Social Service and Development-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MSSD-BARMM), as she relates how the Strong Families Programme made her reflect on the cruciality of strengthening the institution of the family.
Addressing unique needs of fragile and conflict situations such as in Mindanao, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducted a three-day training of trainers (TOT) for five municipalities in the Maguindanao Province to build awareness among the youth on the importance of building strong families and peaceful communities.
The Training of Youth Co-Facilitators on Strong Families Programme in BARMM, an initiative supported by the Japanese Government, capacitated social workers, para-social workers from Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Parang, and Northern Kabuntalan, and representatives from MSSD-BARMM as well as youth leaders from the Bangsamoro Youth Commission and the Bangsamoro Islamic Women’s Auxiliary Brigade.
The UNODC Strong Families Programme is part of a family skills programme that aims to address a wide range of negative social outcomes such as substance use, educational drop out, violence, violent extremism, and other health outcomes. The program is designed to assist families and their children to deal with challenges of daily lives.
A total of 31 participants benefitted from the roll-out, around 90% of which are women. Four participants came from Northern Kabuntalan, four from Datu Odin Sinsuat, seven from Shariff Aguak, three from Mamasapano, and 13 came from Parang.
Sharing her learnings from the three-day workshop, Ms. Surainy Camsa Kamad, para-social worker assigned in Parang, Maguindanao, mentioned that aside from her parents, she considers the people who voluntarily render services to the community as her heroes. “They give vitality and order to our society, making them my inspiration to be an effective social worker that I aspire to be,” Kamad said.
MSSD-BARMM Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Elena Toribio expressed her appreciation of the UNODC’s pioneering initiatives to help bridge gaps in the institutional formation in the region. Toribio emphasized the role of the institution of the family in ensuring that the youth and children will become productive members of society.
“Having strong family foundations are deterrents for children to go astray or become juvenile delinquent, children-in-conflict-with-the-law (CICL), or even those children at risk,” Toribio said.
Scaling up institutional formation and peace initiatives in Mindanao
As part of the continuing initiative to forward family-based prevention towards building peace, groups of trainers were trained on community-based treatment and care services for people affected by drug use and dependence in the Philippines, as well as on the Strong Families Programme on August and September 2019.
Potential trainers were chosen from among the participants to conduct the training for the BARMM region, and on November 2021, a facilitators’ training was conducted on the Strong Family Programme for the whole of BARMM, attended by different participating ministries.
For the Maguindanao roll-out, previously trained facilitators were empowered to take on the role of cascading the Strong Families learning modules.
Gearing Mindanao youth and families towards peace building
UNODC Drug Control and Crime Prevention Programme Officer Milos Stojanovic, joining the Maguindanao roll-out via online, underlined the need to beef up public health capacities. These include effectively building strong families and nurturing family mental health, which could help support and address pertinent issues such as crime prevention and forward peace in the long-run.
Laila Kadir of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office also emphasized the role of the youth and para-social workers in reaching out to the communities. “You will be our extension on the ground as co-facilitators of the programme in the five target areas in Maguindanao,” Kadir underlined.
Aside from cascading Strong Families, recent initiatives of the UNODC in BARMM also include engaging with local authorities in the localized Community and Service-Oriented Policing (CSOP) as a primary crime prevention strategy in BARMM.
The varied yet comprehensive peacebuilding interventions in BARMM, which includes individual empowerment and capacity building as in Strong Families, institutional formation, and setting the right systems such as community policing, could help spur the region to full normalization.