Philippines Water Project Reaches 40,000 students!
Working within a coalition of members in civil society, non-governmental organizations, the military, armed guerillas and parents, Susana and her team overcame persistent challenges which still remain moving forward.
A joint report released this month from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef shows sobering numbers for safe drinking water access in the Philippines. According to the numbers released, 7.5 million Filipinos are without access to sanitary toilets, while 8.4 million do not have a supply of clean drinking water.
A local insurgency in Marawi City in the neighboring province of Lanao del Sur exploded when foreign fighters affiliated with the so-called Islamic State joined the fight and prompted a massive response from the Philippine Armed Forces this summer, including the imposition of martial law. When the conflict spread to nearby Maguindanao, the military stepped up its activities there as well. The conflict has literally come close to home for Susana on several occasions, as in September, when improvised explosive devices were detonated on a road she uses occasionally, wounding four people. Nevertheless, she has deftly navigated the political, economic and social hazards, collaborating constructively with all sides to provide tangible benefits to communities wracked by warfare and poverty.
To install the water pumps, Susana works closely with military officials who have the heavy machines they need and with the rebel groups who control the territory where some of the schools are located. The Goldin Institute has been working with Susana since 2011, providing her with financial resources and opportunities to meet with grassroots leaders from around the world. This training enhanced her leadership skills and reputation, and ultimately prepared her to serve as her community’s representative in an ongoing peace process. Late last year, Susana was appointed a commissioner of the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which includes members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as the government and is dedicated to obviating further outbreaks of violence and ultimately establishing stability throughout the region.
“It is summertime here in our region,” Susana explained, “and our students are on vacation through the end of May. We are also dealing with flooding and as well as peace and security challenges. There are military operations happening in the areas we’ve targeted for water pump installation, as the national government is waging war under martial law.”
Even amidst these difficulties, progress continues as our partners have recently installed four more units, including one in a community where Muslims and Christians living and working together.
In addition to leading these water pump installation efforts, Susana has been chosen by these communities to be a representative in the national peace process since her appointment late last year as a commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.’