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For the past five years at the beginning of March, we always have our women entrepreneurship summit, since womenâ€™s month happens to be in March. This is one among the many events that I always look forward. As we inspire, teach, and mentor the more than 3,000 that attended that day, we too get inspired from the different stories of women entrepreneurs that participated in the summit. Before the program started, I was able to chat with our three women icon awardees â€“ Nanay Coring Ramos, Esther Vibal, and Helen Benitez, who are between 86 to 99 years of age. I asked them what is the secret in living a long and happy life. They shared that they continue to be active in the business, which keep themselves busy with work and their minds active. But I guess that their longevity has something to do with their outlook in life; they are always smiling and laughing. Not many do possess that kind of attitude especially when people reach their age, but for them that is their secret to long life.
Speaking of the summit, participants heard from inspiring speakers and women entrepreneur panelists like Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Karen Davila. Sen. Miriamâ€™s keynote address has once again shown her brilliance as she talked about closing the gender gap and stopping political dynasties. As expected, she did not spare other public officials when she made amusing remarks about them, but her speech was more than that. She talked about the plight of women in the country and how we fare in terms of protecting women and their rights. Basically, our laws promote equal opportunities for women, especially in the government sector, but it was actually the attitude of the voting public that keeps the gap between men and women.
Sen. Miriam also recalled the existing entrepreneurship options for Filipinas and what we can do to improve it. Most women entrepreneurs are undergraduates, which limits their employment opportunities. Because they are unemployed, they do not have the means to earn money to be used as capital in starting a business. What binds them the most is that they had to stay at home to take care of their young children. But she mentioned that through the efforts made by organizations like Go Negosyo, the chances of these women to move up in life increase. By inspiring them with the success stories of women entrepreneurs and by empowering them with the knowledge on how to start their own negosyo, women will start thinking that business is not just about capital. They will surely be more creative in dealing with poverty. Now, if only the government will adapt the enterprising mindset, their policies will be friendlier towards women entrepreneurs. Better policies will definitely help aspiring women entrepreneurs in providing for their families and in succeeding with their business endeavors.
Meanwhile, during the afternoon part of the summit, Karen Davila shared what is an empowered womanâ€™s blueprint to success by recalling her own story. She shared that she was from a family that was not rich. To sustain their needs, her mother used her skill as a seamstress in order to put up a business. This influenced Karen to adopt an enterprising mindset herself even at a young age. Just like how her mother knew that she was good as a seamstress, Karen knew that she was good in communication, and she developed this asset to get a job later on and help her family. By giving focus on where she is good at, she was able to build a career and provide a comfortable life not only for her mother, but for herself as well. Karenâ€™s story has proven that even with multiple burdens, women can also succeed in life. But in order to succeed, she reminded everyone that the decision and their desire to succeed must come from each one of them. She also mentioned the importance of taking care of oneself. Karen warned the young women against teen pregnancies, citing herself as an example by saying that she got married first before having children, which she both did when she reached her 30s. Planning will definitely improve the chances of women living better lives.
There were also forum sessions that happened during the summit with women entrepreneurs as panelists. The first forum featured the stories of the Filipina entrepreneurship awardees of 2013, where they shared their individual journeys as women negosyantes. The common ground between their stories is that their journey was born out of intense motivation. Some of them are passionate about a specific field, such as Charita Puentespina who used to grow cut flowers as a hobby and Glenda Barrettoâ€™s love of food; while some are heavily influenced with their personal experiences, such as how Siu Ping Parâ€™s love for her husband transcended from support for his negosyo to supporting other entrepreneurs and Fe Agudoâ€™s early experiences in life, which inspired her to work harder so that her own family would not go through the same things that she had been through.
The second forum featured women from different fields who had battled different issues facing a woman entrepreneur. Willen Ma of Masuki, for instance, had to face their cultural stigma that females are not supposed to handle business. However, Masuki is proof that success in business knows no gender. Grace Poe recalled her fatherâ€™s entrepreneurial spirit in the movie industry. She also shared her experiences back when she was the MTRCB chairperson, where she made sure that the shows that are being aired are gender-sensitive. Tintin Bersola-Babao told the audience how she was able to balance her time between being a mom and an entrepreneur, while Chit Juan mentioned that the success of ECHOstore would rely on the success of the women community that the enterprise actively supports.
Lastly, the final forum showed that young women can also do well in entrepreneurship, and all they needed to do was to think of a fresh and innovative idea to capitalize on. Clang Garciaâ€™s Jeepney Tours gave a twist to the normal travel-and-tour business by offering the tours while onboard a jeep. Liâ€™l People Enterprisesâ€™ Mary Grace Santos explained that onesâ€™ eyes had to be open for opportunities, like how she noticed people who are shopping at the mall but are having a hard time because they have their children with them. Then, Beryl Li assured that these fresh business ideas can be realized through funding, and organizations like SeedAsia Philippines are willing to help young start-ups.
Sometimes, people only needed inspiration to move forward. With the success of the 5th Filipina Summit, we hope that we were able to touch the lives of more Filipinas and influence them to be more proactive in changing their lives. In my next column, I will be sharing with you the launch of our eighth book, which will surely spread more inspiration to Filipinos, especially those who are in the agriculture sector.