The Struggle for Recognition: Ella Sheryl Benito
Ella, 31 years old and a mother of one, is a Teduray from Maguindanao. She is a member of the Timuay Justice and Governance, an indigenous political structure of Teduray-Lambangian communities. Her family lives modestly on their meager income from planting root crops and also from volunteering. Their community lives peacefully, steeped still in their rich indigenous tradition and culture.
Ella is active in promoting women’s rights and their rights to their ancestral domain. These advocacies started when she noticed the discrimination experienced by her fellow indigenous peoples.
In 2016, tragedy struck. Her husband was shot dead while on his way to Cotabato City. Ella believes that incident was work-related since her husband was a social worker of Department of Social Welfare and Development. One year later, houses of their community in Mount Firis were burned down by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Not only has she had to struggle to raise her child on her own, she has joined the leaders of the Timuay Justice and Governance to find ways to solve these security and livelihood issues. Until now, some of the displaced families are still at the evacuation center and cannot go home due to threats of from the BIFF.
For Ella, it is important to conserve their culture and traditions. She believes the fight for the rights of indigenous peoples and rights of indigenous women is necessary for their survival, even though, decades after they started their struggle, their aspirations are still far from being fulfilled.
Ella says, "We indigenous peoples, especially indigenous women, will not lose hope that our struggle will be successful. Our fight for the recognition of IP rights continues. Let’s unite!”