In 2020, our country was in the top 20 (as the 16th country out of 153) of the Global Gender Gap Report of 2020 by the World Economic Forum in terms of economic opportunities, health, education, and political empowerment. While theoretically the Philippines seems to have been doing better than its neighbors in achieving gender equality, in reality, many women claim otherwise due to stereotypes, rape culture, and violence against women still being rampant in our society and communities.
Our research wanted to explore the differences between the experiences of women and men when witnessing violent extremism.
The study found that women are being lured into participating in violent activities by making use of both the traditional and modern perspectives of women.
For several families, women find themselves involved in VE due to male relatives (through marriage or by blood) associating themselves with these groups and by a want (or sometimes need) to support their wishes and harmful pursuits. These women are also given roles in these groups relating to the “loyal and domestic” stereotype of women such as being medical staff or cooks.
Furthermore, violent groups use “female empowerment” to garner attention from women. Here, women are given proactive roles as leaders and combatants in the field of battle. There have been reports of women actively seeking out these roles in the name of “gender equality” and to express their freedom from a restrictive community.
Filipino Women: Violence and Violent
Filipino Men: Violence and Violent
Our research, however, found that extremist groups continue to recruit men using more traditional ideologies being able to protect their loved ones, being a “strong father figure”, and being able to provide for their families.
How Violent Extremists Recruit People and Why They Succeed
Through our research, we discovered the different factors that violent extremist groups take advantage of in order to gather more Filipinos to join their ranks. These factors include:
Poverty is rampant in our country with 4 million Filipinos unemployed (as of January 2021), and as of 2018, around 16.6% of the population was recorded to live under the poverty line. This has led to many of our brothers and sisters being vulnerable to the influence of violent extremist groups who lure and recruit them with promises of an easier life, and access to money and technology. Since poverty robs Filipinos of different rights in life (such as quality education, food, and healthcare), VE groups have different methods of tempting ordinary citizens to join their ranks.
We are social beings who cannot function without the influence of the environment and the people around us. The bigger the roots are of a thought or idea inside us, the harder it is to challenge or change.
This is why it is hard to view the violence and prejudice on our shores and within our borders as anything but systemic. Some of us are taught to hate others and see others as being the reason why we do not get ahead in life.
It is hard to stray from resentment and distrust from one another when it is so ingrained in our society. From little things like stereotypes to a bigger display of bias like officials targeting communities that disagree with them, one can see the implications and products of hatred in our lives.
While we may claim that our religions are based on love for God and for others, we cannot erase the violent history our colonizers bestowed upon us in the name of religion. To this day, there is tension between religions because of our vicious roots that subconsciously influence our thinking and our relations with one another.
Our beliefs may be based on the promises and miracles of higher beings but our teachings and applications stem from the words and actions of mere men. In an ideal world, this would bring us closer to our own communities as we explore different facets of life and how we see our gods in the environment around us. The sad reality, however, is immensely different; we have found ways to bring conflict into our churches and prayer halls as we inflict violence and harm against those who believe differently from us and even against those we sit beside at our place of worship.
Our harmful and alienating disposition have tainted the way we approach and interact with others. Day after day, we hear of acts of injustices performed by those who see themselves as superior to the rest of society. Some members of our society have even been on the receiving end of abuse and mistreatment simply because more powerful individuals saw their lives as collateral damage in their quest to get what they want.
With so many problems and crises faced by Filipinos everyday, one can only imagine how much work our government officials and public servants contend with in order to alleviate these hardships. However, there are certain groups that believe that they have been abandoned by our government. Their feelings of neglect and the delay of government assistance (especially to far-flung areas and hot spots of conflict) may push some of them to join extremist groups as they see no other alternative to meet their needs.
HISTORICAL INJUSTICES AND WARPED
Together with the large number of external sources of influence, individual’s agency and free will are still at play. The individual still plays a role in most of their decisions. But we should never forget that, more often than not, people are either manipulated; forced; or even brainwashed.