Women PeaceMaker Profile
Liza Llesis Saway
Keeper of the Soul of the People by Peace Writer Alicia Simoni
With contributions from Jennie Siat Bev and Elizabeth Skurdahl
Liza Llesis Saway is an indigenous peacemaker in Mindanao in the Philippines, where Moros (Muslims), Christian settlers and indigenous peoples co-exist amidst several armed groups fighting the government army. She is known as Bai Nanapnay, a name given to the woman leader of the Talaandig indigenous community; her work is based on “the understanding of the harmonious relationships of plants, animals, human beings and the spirits.”
A founder of Talaandig Mothers for Peace and the wife of a tribal chief, Saway has been leading the quest for the rights of the tribe to self-determination and self-governance in their ancestral domain, where their families have lived for centuries. Through her leadership, the Talaandig women are empowered and have equal opportunities in the decision-making processes of their tribe. The group documents indigenous methods of conflict resolution that have proved effective in settling family and intra-tribal discord. Saway also led the establishment of the Talaandig School for Living Traditions in Bukidnon Province, which promotes indigenous arts, music and dance and where children are taught the values and traditions of the tribe, thus preserving the cultural heritage of the Talaandig people.
Saway has also emerged as one of the key leaders in the interfaith and multiethnic community efforts to move forward the peace processes in Mindanao. She is a council member of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, composed of grassroots leaders from the Moro, Christian and indigenous communities who are working together for the peaceful resolution of the armed conflicts. As such, she has conducted dialogues with the major actors in the peace process and is an active partner in peace and development campaigns at the grassroots level. Saway bases her peace advocacy campaigns in the Talaandig doctrine of kinship as she represents her tribal community’s call for a genuine peace in Mindanao.
Saway was a Woman PeaceMaker in 2009.