Lanao del Norte, 8th March 2019 – As a child, Normilah experienced war. She recalls how she and her family had to evacuate on three separate occasions when the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) attacked their village in Mindanao, Philippines. She was just nine years old when mortar shells were dropped on her village the first time in 2000.
In 2003, Normilah experienced war again. She was twelve. Ongoing fighting between the MILF and government forces made her flee her village again. She had to leave her school and friends in order to finish primary school in a bigger and safer town, Marawi City.
Her third experience with war happened in 2007, when she was 16 years old. Once again, her family had to abandon their crops and livestock and flee the village.
“These wars made my life uncertain and difficult. It was very hard to be displaced from my home,” she said.
She experienced hunger, thirst, and fatigue. The worst part was the discrimination she experienced from her fellow Muslims in the evacuation areas. As a result, she did not want to return to her village. Unfortunately, she had no choice but to return there.
After the wars, she encountered numerous challenges as she recovered from trauma. Even though, she had to overcome these challenges, one of her goal was to promote peace in her community.
In 2015, the Jesuit Refugee Service began to help Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in her community. Her family was one of those served by the JRS. She began to participate in JRS activities to build peace and promote livelihoods. Normilah became a member of the JRS Women Peace Advocate group. The Advocates consist of Moro (Muslim population) and non-Moro women who choose to be the peace builders in their respective communities.
“JRS has shown sincerity through service even in simple ways. That’s why I decided to actively participate in JRS training activities including organizational development and management, bookkeeping, risk mitigation, horticulture, and peace and reconciliation,” she says.
Normilah now manages the women’s cooperative store and community garden in her village.
“JRS’ staff shared their knowledge and love. They have been a great help to me and to my community. Indeed, JRS supported us for almost three years! On behalf of the Matampay Women’s Association, I would like to say thank you for the income generating livelihood project and for peace development. Nowadays, our village in Lanao del Norte became a community where everyone has learned peace from war.”
Ms. Liezl B. Tingcang, Project Officer, PJRS