Empowered muslim women of Mindanao

photographs courtey of Ayunan G. Gunting Bae Eleanor Dimaporo Lantud

They say that Mindanao has a lot of untapped potentials. I couldn’t agree more, especially when I had lived long enough to see how Muslims persevere to raise the bar and break stigmas that had unfortunately hindered them from harnessing their possibilities.

But what truly sets Mindanao apart is its fearless and empowered women. These remarkable individuals have shattered stereotypes and defied expectations behind all the chaos, proving that they are a force to be reckoned with. They have triumphed over adversity and discovered their potential.

As I have had the privilege of working alongside many Mindanaoan women from all walks of life, I have been humbled by their uncompromising nature and persistent devotion to their professions. What overwhelms me is that many of them are close to me. And to commemorate Women’s Month, I am proud to highlight three remarkable women from Mindanao who prove that Mindanao is a land of potential.

For Dianah-Lynn M. Karim-Hila, certified public accountant, being a woman means having the power to drive change through kindness and patience, qualities that are often overlooked in the workplace. As a group supervisor at BIR Makati, she understands how crucial it is to lead with a compassionate heart and tenacious perseverance.

Dianan-Lynn Karim Hila, CPA.

“Dealing with clients with varying work styles and patience in responding to government agencies remains a challenge in our line of work because, while we get to develop skills in addressing concerns — mainly patience, we meet different kinds of people every day,” she said.

As a supervisor, Karim-Hila’s role is to ensure that her team achieves the highest standards of quality and efficiency. This requires her to be vigilant and observant about the work of her colleagues while providing guidance and support to help them excel.

“A lot of it is time management and knowing your priorities. If you have a clear picture of what is important to you, the right balance for you will come,” Karim-Hila said.

Karim-Hila’s journey has taught her invaluable lessons about perseverance, leadership and the power of women to make a difference. Through her dedication and hard work, she has not only helped her parents but also supported and equipped her sisters towards their own paths to success.

Karim-Hila proves that women are but “men of the people.” The same can be said with Atty. Nadine M. Karim-Barrat, RN, believes that we need more empowered women leaders willing to move boundaries to distances where there can no longer be felt.

Atty. Karim-Barrat is a true embodiment of an empowered woman. She doesn’t let boundaries limit her and instead pushes herself to break barriers and create opportunities for growth. As a political affairs officer to a member of the Parliament, she embraces the chance to deal with different personalities and gain wisdom from political leaders.

“My work directly involves pursuits to uplift lives. We are required to listen, to be empathic, and translate needs to sustainable solutions,” she said.

Atty. Karim Barrat.

Strong-willed individuals
Despite the challenges of working with strong-willed individuals and navigating potential conflicts of interest, Atty. Karim-Barrat remains steadfast in her commitment to supporting the vision and aspirations of her head for Bangsamoro. Her dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed, and she takes pride in being a valuable member of her team.

“I am not afraid to ask for help and to admit when I need it. I am relatively young in my career, and I have grown so used to putting family first, that the balance I see now is tilted towards creating a strong foundation in my career so it can carry both my aspirations and the people who inspire me to pursue them,” she said.

But Atty. Karim-Barrat’s remarkable strength and resilience extend beyond her professional life. She recently became a new mother during a pandemic, and despite the challenges that came with it, she made sure that her presence was felt while she was away taking the Bar Exams. This experience uncovered an unexplored side of herself, proving that she is more than capable of handling whatever life throws her way.

Studying the law really knows no gender. With an unwavering belief in the value of women in society, Atty. Sittie Nadia M. Karim, CPA, excels as the director of the administrative and finance service of the Ministry of Public Works-BARMM.

For her, being a public servant means consistent growth and adaptation to meet the needs of her community. She sees her role as a chance to make a positive impact on people’s lives, and she does not take that responsibility lightly. Despite her many accomplishments, Atty. Karim continues to challenge herself to reach new heights, by discovering the potency of her presence and strives to maximize her potential to effect change in the workplace.

“I love working in the background. I like listening to ideas and sharing in closed settings. Transformational leadership I feel is often preferred, but I prefer the quiet way of removing issues through collaboration rather than dominance,” she said.

Looking up to humanitarian Najah Bazzy, she strives to become a leader who empowers people to serve others while spreading hope and change.

“I aspire to be a thought leader, to find a niche and grow in that field. While I am a work in progress, I also hope to be a catalyst for change, and help others drive development for a better government,” she said.

Last but not least, Bai a Labi Eleanor Dimaporo Lantud, a friend and groundbreaker in women’s empowerment in Mindanao, must not be omitted from the list of empowered women. As the first Muslim female mayor of Timbab in Lanao del Norte, she demonstrated outstanding leadership during her political career.

Even after her term, she remained committed to serving her people’s best interests. Her dedication to preserving Maranao culture through the establishment of a local museum is a testament to her unwavering commitment to empowering her people and preserving their heritage for future generations.

These four women conquered the barriers set by the male-dominated society while also discovering parts of themselves that molded them into what they are today. While they strive to become better every day, they also hope that other women in Mindanao find their own path as well.

“Conflict, displacement, and poverty are known challenges in Mindanao. These are areas where women can make an impact, caring for their families along with their partners, being a silent source of strength if not the force herself,”

Karim-Hilal said.

“There is so much that needs to be done to achieve true gender equality. If creating an identity is an objective, courage will be required to be seen, known, and heard,” Atty. Karim-Barrat said.

“Nonetheless, I’d encourage women like me to embrace their flaws, silently work on being a better version of themselves, and be proud of who they are and where they hail from,” Atty. Sittie Nadia M. Karim said.

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