I get mixed reviews whenever I talk about women empowerment. Though many initiatives have been made to empower the micro-entrepreneurs at the BOP (Bottom of the Pyramid), and these programs like the Great (Gender Responsive Economic Actions for Transformation) Project of the Canadian International Development Agency and Philippine Commission on Women have really produced empowered mothers and wives, still there are naysayers.
I was having lunch with an editor of a daily newspaper who does not believe in making a woman-led organization like hers float up as “women-led.” She simply says “our paper is run by editors, not by women.” Why is this?
I know a topnotch lawyer who does not like to legislate that 30 percent of women be required for corporate boards. Why is this?
Meanwhile, I commend the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for having women in their ranks from the level of Undersecretary, and down to Assistant Secretaries like the culture-passionate Corazon Davis, directors and managers.
On the other side of the world, women are making waves because they talk about it, they lobby for legislation (like Women Impacting Public Policy or WIPP in the USA), and they promote it.
We have groups for women in coffee, women corporate directors and women in travel. We have women entrepreneurs, women in civil service besides the traditional Zonta, Rotarians and Soroptimists. And we just recently formed the Business and Professional Women Chapter of Makati City with a diverse group of empowered and inspiring women.
The Philippines has had two women presidents, has a female Chief Justice, Secretary of Justice, PEZA chairman and a host of women senators. Yet we do not want to legislate for women or require that women be given seats, votes and equal if not more power than their male counterparts.
In other countries, they even have a Ministry for Women and Development, a Ministry for Women and Culture or simply a Ministry for Women. This is because of studies made that when women earn money, they bring back 70 percent to the household as opposed to men who only bring in 40 percent.
When women earn, the children are fed, clothed and brought to school, it is just how life is. Like other beings and living creatures, women simply have to nurture the young. And if only for this reason, we should empower our women from the grassroots up. I think we should rethink the way we look at women empowerment. It is not feminist or radical. It is just the way life should be.
When women are accomplished, it may be easy for them to say “we don’t need legislation.” But when you see the thousands who are trafficked and abused only because they are not economically productive, then you will understand.
By the time you read this we would just have attended the Global Summit of Women held in nearby Kuala Lumpur (www.globewomen.org). For the first time we had more than 30 Filipinas out of almost a thousand attendees, attend this “Davos of Women.” After having attended three of these summits years before, we thought it would be a good idea to share what we learn from these conferences by bringing more people from the Philippines. In 2015, we are also hosting the APEC Women and the Economy Summit right here in Manila.
We regularly sit down with gender and development experts from our government and they too believe that the Filipino woman should be supported not only through micro-entrepreneurship to the executive levels and corporate directorship, but also through integrated programs or what our government calls “convergence.”
We hope that maybe through the Department of Interior and Local Government, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and PCW we can draw up a plan of convergence from top to bottom, from bottom up.
We hope that our continuous dialogues with women experts and gender advocates will give focus to women and their role in society because indeed, as they say, “women hold half the sky.”
What is your role in empowering a woman?
Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at email@example.com.