Badjao tribe represented at the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

By the Nano Nagle Early Learning Centre Team

On January 26-28, 2017, we were invited to a workshop in Negros, Philippines. The workshop was about Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It was conducted by Sister Elsa Muttattu-a Presentation Sister and NGO representative to the United Nations (UN) and Sister Dulcine. We, as a Team have a little background about Sustainable Development Goals, though we had very limited knowledge about Millennium Development Goals. And when we say “a little” it means we only got our knowledge from internet.

The 3-day workshop opened our eyes and gave us more directed goals in working with the community development in the Badjao area. We were inspired to do more knowing that there are people around the world who are doing the same thing as we do in our own community. Then Sister Elsa, one of the speakers visited the Badjao area after the workshop. She visited because she is a Presentation Sister and wished to experience what we discussed during the workshop. She was delighted with what she saw in the community and the total work in general.

Early February, we received an invitation from her stating that we are invited to talk at the UN.

All set for the Climate March in Washington, DC

All set for the Climate March in Washington

No one dared to volunteer. UN seems so frightening! After weeks of negotiations, we all got to say YES. We started processing papers and other necessary documents. Alongside with the preparation is the preparation for the closing of classes. It was like a marathon every day.

The day to fly for the US came. It was a difficult time, leaving on our own for the first time as the Presentation Sisters were not able to go with us. Another difficulty is leaving our own family, our small children. It was a mixture of excitement, fear and sadness.

What did we do there at the UN? What we attended was a 10th year anniversary of the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

Venerva, Annie, Edwina and Pabs representing the Badjao community at the UN

Venerva, Annie, Edwina and Pabs representing the Badjao community at the UN

As we are working directly with an Indigenous community, we were asked to talk about two things:

  • a. the Badjaos in the Philippines (history and background),
  • b. the ongoing formation/capacity building of the youth, women and community leaders and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and partnership.

During the first two weeks of the Forum, we attended different events that discussed about various issues such as Empowerment of Women, the role of the youth in nation building, importance of Water, recognition/acknowledgement of Indigenous Practices and many more.18119151_1515856958424923_2291760048267860995_n These made us think of our own community issues in the Badjao areas and gave us lots of ideas on how to deal with these problems.

On the 3rd week was our own Side Event. We were too scared although we had plenty of time to prepare for our talk and luckily, we have a very competent coach, Sister Jocelyn Quijano of the Presentation Sisters. We did not expect to get a full house audience considering that 3 of the 4 speakers were first timer (Edwina, Venerva and Pabs from Negros). The support that we got from other delegates at the UN was very inspiring. Annie documented the whole event and was able to produce a movie that was uploaded at the International Presentation Association (IPA) facebook page.

Edwina presenting at the UN

Edwina presenting at the UN

Our individual skills and talents made a good impact in becoming a wonderful Philippine Team. That made our UN experience a memorable one!

The highlights of our experience:

1. On our 3rd day at the UN we attended a Global Caucus for Women and we were nominated as: a. Edwina-co-chair of the event, b. Annie and Venerva as rapporteur of the event. That meeting brought us to another level of experience and made us more confident that we become more involved in the whole process and discussion of the global issues specifically concerning the Indigenous Peoples

2. Attending UN events made us aware of how they function and how can we participate efficiently in the global issues

3. Talking at the Side event about our work with the Badjaos and presenting it to the world was a step for us to be heard and acknowledged as an Indigenous community. It was a perfect venue to discuss global issues and concerns. 18301231_1524020134275272_2346078328581387318_n It felt good to know that we share the same hopes for a better, equal world, even though we still suffer discrimination, etc. The indigenous communities around the world are united in hope.

We are very thankful for the great opportunity given to us by the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary Inc., particularly Sister Evelyn, for mentoring us always and for trusting us in all the work with the Badjao and for allowing us to grow personally and professionally, to Sister Elsa and Sister Jocelyn of the International Presentation Association for inviting us to the UN and for coaching us while we were there doing our battles, to SERVE and Misean Cara for supporting as always, and to the the Badjao community for allowing us to be part of their story and all the interventions in the community to happen.

We hope to further our knowledge and skills so that we could function efficiently in the community. And most of all, we hope to see more Badjao representatives at the UN and other venues where their voice may be heard. We especially hope and pray that at some future time, our youth could experience what we experienced in the UN.