Hasna’s Story from the Philippines

In honor of the International Day of the Girl, we are sharing inspiring girls' stories from different parts of the world about the challenges they have overcome.

Growing up on the rural side of Maguindanao, Philippines, Hasna has seen the various challenges that girls like her continue to face. From the lack of education opportunities to being forced into early marriage, one thing Hasna always knew for sure: she was destined for more.

“Most of the women from my mother’s side did not finish their education or finished elementary only. While on my father’s side, many of them prioritized education,” Hasna shared.

Although Moro families like Hasna’s are usually highly patriarchal and restrictive for girls, her father gave her the space and encouragement to achieve what she wanted.

“In my younger years, I had this perception that women or girls are just destined to be in the confines of their homes, to be housewives. I came to believe it as I’ve seen this situation in my community. But my father really valued education. He was a firm believer in ‘what men can do, women can do too,’” she added.

Based on her own experiences, Hasna strongly believes that when girls are educated, they become aware of their rights, and opportunities are more visible. Wanting to ensure that other girls could benefit as she had, she joined Bangsamoro Youth Peacebuilding (BYP), a project led by one of EAI – Philippines’ Peace Promotion Fellows in Cotabato City.

“BYP is an eye opener to me. It showed me the real struggles happening in grassroots communities. I am now more involved in issues relating to peace and conflict,” Hasna shared.

With armed conflict and instability growing in the Philippines, Hasna and her peers face growing challenges daily. Early in October 2000 she had to rush home to take her younger cousins and nephews to a safer place as some armed groups had swarmed the area.

“Sounds of gunshots were everywhere. I could not help but worry how the situation might impact these kids (her cousins and nephews),” an emotional Hasna recalled.

And how does a young woman like Hasna rise above all these challenges?

“I cannot fight using guns. What I can do is to know how to negotiate and make my voice heard. I believe women are good at negotiating, and I want to be good at it too,” she said.

At present, Hasna continues to use her voice and skills to advocate for peace. She also volunteers in humanitarian activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked how she envisions an equal future for girls…

A future where girls never have to doubt their strength and where each girl gets to decide their purpose in life and their value in the community.