Thanks to my friend Jessica, I was able to attend this Women’s Day Summit at Samsung Hall in SM Aura. It was just amazing to learn so much from so many women!
Read part 1 here, where I talk about the keynote speech by Vice President Leni Robredo and the first panel discussion, on ending violence against women.
The afternoon session included two panels. The first one was called “Breaking Barriers: Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment.”
UPDATE: Watch the whole panel in this Facebook video from the Office of the Vice President.
When women earn an income, they’re better able to bargain with their husbands.
So many women are exploited economically in a variety of ways. Some women are not allowed by their husbands to work, insisting that their place is in the home. Many are overworked and underpaid, or forced to work in terrible conditions. And others simply don’t know how they can work when they have children to take care of.
In the panel, different women talked about the different initiatives they are undertaking to empower women economically.
From Dr. Nathalie Lourdes Africa Verceles, Director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, I learned abut Feminist Economics.
Jill Javiniar, Program Head for Angat Buhay in the Office of the Vice President, talked about the things we might take for granted, but many poor women, women in rural communities and women from indigenous peoples, might not know about business: supply chain management, the need for a reliable contact number, inventory, pricing, recording expenses and income. One woman wanted to set up a weaving business, and the only investment she was asking for was Php 2,000.
In some communities, women don’t even know they can say no when their husbands want to have sex. – Jill Javiniar
Juggling motherhood and work
Zarah Juan talked about the HeArteFino Development Program, and her work with indigenous women. She talked about teaching them to make bags, producing them en masse, and getting orders for them, not just locally, but internationally. She talked about the women’s slight dismay at getting so many orders.
If we have so many orders, how can we take care of our children?
It was a question that touched my heart, because it was my daily struggle. The work is there, the deadlines are there, the stories are there, but how can I take care of my son?
This made Juan realize that economic empowerment is not just abut giving women jobs, or the skills to be able to work. It also meant looking at every other factor that was keeping women from productive, meaningful work. Was she taking care of small children? Was her home far away from her place of work? Was there safe public transportation that she could use? Was she taking care of elderly or sick relatives? Was she literate? Disabled? Juan and her team sat down and talked with the worker women to go over every possible issue, so that they could figure out a solution that worked best for everyone.
It really warmed my heart.
Beauty has the power to change lives.
I was a little skeptical about L’Oreal Philippines being in the summit. Though I love makeup and playing with my appearance, it’s started to bother me how makeup and clothing brands impose impossible standards of beauty on women.
It didn’t come up in the discussion though. Instead, Carmel Valencia, Country Lead for Communication, Public Affairs and Sustainability for L’Oreal Philippines, talked about Beauty for a Better Life (BFBL), an international initiative of the company. Locally, they worked with Philippine Business for Social Programs and the Office of the Vice President, and trained women in hairdressing skills, with the expectation that they would pass on what they learned to other women. With their training, the women were able to take on clients at home, or to provide hairdressing services to their neighbors. Others even found themselves dreaming of opening their own salons someday.
It was really exciting to hear about the different ways women could be empowered economically.