Raising Hope: Stories of Strength Through Women’s Livelihood Initiatives
International Women's Day

Raising Hope: Stories of Strength Through Women’s Livelihood Initiatives

Photo by Harold Julian

For International Women’s Day, Vogue Philippines celebrates with the stories of empowering women through “Raising Hope: A call for nominations of inspiring women.” These women spearhead various livelihood initiatives for the betterment of their communities, creating lasting impact and transforming lives. 

Empowered women empower others. From innovative ventures that drive economic growth to enterprises that provide employment opportunities to their communities, Vogue Philippines aims to honor women that foster inclusive prosperity through their initiatives. 

Danielle Andrea Ferrer, Nominated by Tiffany Kang

Danielle Andrea Ferrer is an inspiration to curly-haired people everywhere, according to nominator Tiffany Kang. At 21, Ferrer started her brand Curlico, which aims to empower individuals with natural curls to embrace their hair texture while challenging prevailing beauty standards. Ferrer founded the brand amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and initially managed all aspects of the business, from packaging to marketing. 

Now, through strategic collaborations with content creators as well as innovative marketing campaigns such as “#KwentongKulot” where Filipinos share inspirational journeys and tips on how to take care of their curls, Ferrer propelled her brand to prominence. As an entrepreneur, Ferrer emphasizes teamwork and goal-setting as she and her team expands Curlico’s reach and impact. 

“She has a dream and she knows how to get to it. I cannot wait for what this lady can accomplish even more. The future is bright for Dre Ferrer and all the curly people in the Philippines!” Kang says. 

Felicitas Pantoja, Nominated by Amanda Lee Velasco 

Courtesy of Felicitas Pantoja

In positively transforming Filipino coffee farming communities through her initiative, Coffee for Peace Cafe, Felicitas Pantoja became an inspiration to nominator Amanda Lee Velasco. Founded with her husband Daniel Pantoja in 2006, the initiative stimulates the local coffee industry and also serves as a catalyst for conflict resolution in strife-torn areas of Mindanao. 

“In 2006, a part of Mindanao was at war [and] they sat down these two parties and talked it over a cup of coffee.” Velasco shares. “It was settled, and there was peace. [Pantoja] then thought of Coffee for Peace, [an initiative that helps] with the conflicted areas, and then trained them how to make good coffee beans.”

Pantoja’s commitment to peacebuilding and economic empowerment is evident in her tireless work with Coffee for Peace despite her familial responsibilities as a grandmother of eight. Aside from creating jobs and income opportunities for locals, Coffee for Peace also provides essential training to local coffee farmers, equipping them with skills to successfully market their produce at optimal quality and price. 

Karen Toyoshima, Nominated by Monica Lynn Verdadero

Courtesy of Karen Toyoshima

Actress, rescuer, and animal welfare advocate Karen Toyoshima is dedicated to addressing the issue of stray animals in the Philippines. In her nomination, Monica Lynn Verdadero says that Toyoshima collaborates with various companies and brands to support animal welfare through her organization Be Kind to All Kinds Philippines, exemplifying the importance of collaboration between different sectors and organizations to create positive change.

Toyoshima promotes the “Adopt Don’t Shop” initiative while giving free spay and neuter services in rural communities, actively partnering with local government units (LGUs) to implement more animal welfare projects that benefit local livelihoods. Toyoshima is currently expanding her reach globally, working with international organizations to amplify her advocacy on a broader scale. 

“She’s been advocating and creating a huge difference in the country and is now working on creating more projects with different agencies abroad to shed light about the realities of stray animals in the Philippines,” Verdadero shares.

Melissa Villa, Nominated by Veejay Villafranca 

Melissa Villa is committed to helping children and families live dignified lives. Nominator Veejay Villafranca expresses their admiration for Villa, sharing that alongside her committed team at Project Pearls, Villa embarked on a mission to address the dire situation in areas such as the ulingan district in Tondo, Manila. In these areas, hundreds of families rely on producing charcoal for their daily income, enduring toxic fumes that lead to respiratory diseases and poor health.

By recognizing that loss of dignity contributes significantly to poverty and inequality in the Philippines, Villa’s efforts with Project Pearls prioritized facilitating access to education, monitoring health, and assisting families in relocating to safer and more dignified living spaces. Through this, Villa empowers the families in these communities to pursue meaningful and more fulfilling lives while generating livelihood opportunities.

“Melissa Villa and Project Pearls dedicate their everyday lives in helping children and their families regain their dignity and live a normal and peaceful life.” Villafranca says. 

Visit vogue.ph everyday this month for daily features on inspiring women, as nominated by the people whose lives they’ve changed.

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