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Jainab Abdulmajid: The Continuing Challenge to Lead

Posted: 2015-05-18

Jainab Abdulmajid is the current Provincial Tourism Officer of Sulu. She joined the Bridging Leadership Fellowship Program (BLFP) in 2008 upon the recommendation of another BL Fellow, Maj. Gen. Natalio Ecarma III, currently the Undersecretary of National Defense for Defense Operations of the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines.

EMBRACING THE ROLE OF A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER

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Jainab Abdulmajid was resource speaker for a lecture on culture sensitivity for newly-arrived troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Sulu

Abdulmajid began her leadership journey early in her youth. As president of the student government during her senior year at Notre Dame of Jolo College, she found herself challenged by new responsibilities and issues in the community. There was an instance in her school of a potentially explosive situation between Christian and Muslim students, and as president, Abdulmajid asserted that everyone work together for the sake of peace in the community. Her choice was neither easy nor popular, but she learned that “to be a leader is to set aside my own feelings and interests when necessary so that I can help more people.”

After graduating from college, she worked for the Child Survival Development Program of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Sulu. As part of the engagement, she worked with several communities in Jolo and Hadji Panglima Tahil, and it was then that she realized how much the people struggled due to poverty and the lack of access to basic needs, such as food and water. What really disturbed her, however, was how passive the people seemed to be in the face of their poverty and the neglect of the local government. “The people really didn’t care that their situation was like that. It was like they had no voice to say that that shouldn’t be the case, that that shouldn’t be their condition. They seemed to believe that it was their destiny to be in that situation.” It was then that she embraced the role of community organizer.

FINDING HER ‘PLACE’ IN PEACE WORK

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Jainab Abdulmajid with fellow Bridging Leader USec. Natalio Ecarma during the Bayanihan build in a Gawad Kalinga Village in Patikul, along with Mayor Kabir Hayudini of Patikul, Sulu

Her engagement with UNICEF ended in 1993. In 1994, Abdulmajid began working as tourism officer for the Provincial Government, but her concern for the impoverished communities of Sulu remained. She looked at tourism as a source of income and pride for the people. However, as the security situation in the area worsened with the Sipadan hostage crisis , marketing the province as a vacation destination became less and less viable. Wanting to understand how she could turn the situation around, she renewed her relationship with the civil society organizations (CSOs) in the area. As she went around listening to the everyday concerns of the people, she found herself gravitating towards development efforts initiated within the broader perspective of peace advocacy

“I found myself thinking that that was my place – in peace work. I realized that I felt more comfortable doing peace work than development work. That was my priority. I thought that the situation required that we talk to people first about how they could participate in advocating peace before we could even begin talking about development.”

Moreover, she realized that neither peace nor development could be achieved without addressing the concerns of the community – everyday problems like the lack of livelihood, inadequate water and insufficient healthcare. As she put it, “Peace needs a holistic approach.”

COMMITTING TO PEACE UNCONDITIONALLY

In late 2008, Abdulmajid was selected to become part of the third cohort of the Bridging Leadership Fellowship Program (BLFP) of the Asian Institute of Management TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership (AIMTEC). She was then Executive Director (ED) of Sulu’s Area Coordinating Council (ACC). Her role as E.D. required her to manage different relationships and interests on a daily basis to ensure that everyone was headed towards the same goal – a peaceful and prosperous Sulu. She hoped that the systematic approach to addressing social problems in multi-stakeholder contexts of the BL Framework would improve her effectiveness in her position. Unfortunately, the Governor of Sulu forbade her from leaving her post to join the workshop because of the volatile situation in the area at the time, and when he found out that she had ignored his instructions, she was relieved of her position and immediately replaced. Even as she struggled to overcome her feelings of shock and hurt, she knew that she needed to push through with the fellowship. She still had her commitment to the people of Patikul and this did not change things for her just because her own situation had changed.

The summit aimed to promote transparency among stakeholders and communicate a common understanding of the issues of education in Bongao. The summit served as a platform for multi-sectoral engagement––representatives from the NGOs, religious groups, businesses, regional and local government, CSOs, academe, and the community were in attendance. In the process, teachers and principals became co-owners of this initiative. 

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Jainab Abdulmajid as Plenary Speaker at the Global Summit of Gawad Kalinga in Singapore in 2010

THE CONTINUING CHALLENGE TO LEAD

Abdulmajid is unrelenting when it comes to working to achieve sustainable peace in Patikul. At an early age, she learned the value of hard work from her parents. She grew to be independent, and has never allowed difficult situations get in the way of her goals. Moreover, she realized that having a position of authority is not necessary for her to rise up to the challenges of leadership and commit to a purpose beyond what is being asked of her. She continued to advocate for peace through several initiatives including strengthening the Patikul Inter-Agency core group, furthering the Cow for Peace Program initiated by Ecarma with the Promotion for Peace and Prosperity (3P) Foundation of Armando de Rossi , volunteering to be Provincial Coordinator for Gawad Kalinga (GK) in Sulu, and initiating the Barangay Development Planning Program in partnership with the Asia Foundation. 

Also together with Ecarma, she led the GK-Sulu team of volunteer builders to build communities in Lantawan, Basilan in 2013. These were awarded to GK-Sulu recipients the year after. In May 2014, Ecarma and Abdulmajid once again engaged the same team in the building of relocation settlements for the Zamboanga siege victims in Tulungatong, Zamboanga City. She also involved volunteer builders from Mega Sardines, a company owned by another BL Fellow Michael Tiu Lim. The Sulu volunteer builders are also the recipients of GK-Sulu, and she believes that “their blessings from God and their GK journey has transformed them from being mere recipients to being benevolent benefactor - builders.”

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Jainab Abdulmajid (extreme left) with volunteer builders from the Gawad Kalinga Village in Sulu and fellow GK Coordinator and BL Fellow USec. Natalio Ecarma III

Her commitment and belief on the BL approach to leadership has opened many other opportunities for her to build her network of fellow peace advocates in Sulu. As member of the Board of Directors of the Sulu Provincial Women Council, she led a project on "Co-Creating Partnerships for the Advancement of Women through Increased Co-ownership of Stakeholders" with the support of the Asia Foundation.

She also views her involvement as Mentor and Consultant of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) Police Community Relations in Sulu and Member of the Provincial Advisory Council of the PNP Sulu Community Immersion Program as opportunities to share the BL approach and engage as many stakeholders as necessary.

Recently, she directed a ten-day course for the Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 stationed in the Municipality of Indanan, Sulu. As part of their Community Relations Training, the course aimed to improve the relations between the locals and the security sector. Ecarma was invited as resource speaker and shared his own journey of “Co-Ownership and Co-Creating New Realities” with his team in Patikul. Abdulmajid and Ecarma are one in the belief that peace can be attained and sustained when the different stakeholders and community members learn and work together, and that it is through inter-faith, multi-stakeholder partnerships with the grassroots, the local government units and the military that Sulu will finally find its rightful place as a peaceful and equitably prosperous province of our country.

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BL Fellow Usec. Natalio Ecarma III (second from right) was invited to share his leadership journey; BL Fellow Jainab Abdulmajid (extreme right) was the Course Director of the Philippine Marines Community Relations Training and resource person on the BL Framework for Community Engagement Usec. Natalio Ecarma III (standing) sharing his BL Journey in Patikul, Sulu to Community Relations Training participants composed of Marines, the local government, and members of civil society organizations, majority of whom are from Indanan, Sulu

Abdulmajid hopes to continue engaging communities at the grassroots level and further integrating the practice of BL in local governance. She realizes that it is impossible to achieve peace without bringing people together and looks forward to forming new partnerships that will accelerate the attainment of just and lasting peace not only in Sulu but in the whole of Mindanao. “In a very challenging peace and development journey in Sulu, outcomes are difficult to harvest without stakeholders, collaborators and co-owners. The vision should be shared by every stakeholder because this is the only way success could be achieved and the gains made sustainable."

 

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1 The Bridging Leadership Fellowship Program (BLFP) of the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership (then AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Societal Divides) is a leadership development program anchored on the Bridging Leadership Framework of Ownership, Co-Ownership and Co-Creation. It is designed to strengthen and harness the Fellows’ capacity to engage stakeholders and find solutions to problems that create societal divides.
2 23 April 2000 - Abu Sayyaf gunmen attacked a Malaysian dive resort on the island of Sipadan, seizing 21 hostages. The hostages -- 10 tourists and 11 resort workers -- were taken to an Abu Sayaff camp on the southern Philippine island of Jolo.
3 The Promotion for Peace and Prosperity Foundation USA (3P Foundation) is a non-profit organization registered and established in the State of Washington. Through various projects such as medical missions, donation of ambulances, medical supplies and equipment, feeding programs and donation of books and educational items, it aims to create meaningful impact in the lives of the people of Mindanao. 
4 On September 9, 2014, about 200 rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Nur Misuari stormed into Zamboanga City in boats and took over several coastal villages, triggering a standoff between government forces and the rebels who held civilians hostage. The assault, apparently aimed at thwarting a government peace plan with another separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), paralyzed the city of over a million residents, razed 10,000 homes and reduced 30 to 40 hectares of once-thriving communities to rubble.

 

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