UN Women representatives Sarah Knibbs, Lenlen Mesina, Dr. Amaryllis Torres, and Karen Davila discuss what we can aspire to for the year ahead.
Last Thursday morning, January 18, at The Westin Manila, UN Women held a luncheon for their Delivering for Women and Girls in the Philippines program, centered on presenting tangible steps toward achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in the country.
UN Women Asia Pacific Region deputy regional director Sarah Knibbs opened the presentations with an overview of UN Women’s operations, later sharing how much “UN Women both here in the Philippines and the regional office in Bangkok looks forward to working with all the partners and stakeholders here in the room and in the country to really try to [work toward] our shared agenda, which is to create more equality for women and girls here in the Philippines, in the region, and globally.”
Knibbs was followed by a presentation by Dr. Amaryllis Torres, a UN Women technical consultant and professor at the University of the Philippines, who talked about how we might uplift Filipino women’s voices by surveying the key areas to focus on this year in matters related to educational attainment, health and survival, and more.
UN Women Philippines country coordinator Rosalyn “Lenlen” Mesina was next to the podium, opening with a heartfelt anecdote about her daughter Likha’s leadership ambitions as she discussed the importance of empowering the next generation of women leaders. “I think I have a daughter who wants and who really has that power to decide what she wants to be when she grows up,” she said. “And that’s what we want to see for women and girls here in the Philippines—to have that freedom to decide, to have that opportunity for them to really become what they want to be without any worry or fear.”
Finally, Knibbs formally introduced Karen Davila as the Philippines’ first UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. The veteran news anchor went on to animatedly announce two projects that were set into motion since her appointment: the SHEstems Scholarship Awards program, which will award P120,000 each school year to 12 women aspiring to a career in STEM, and the Women Leadership Coaching and Mentoring Program, which will connect mentors to women and girls living in the farther regions of the Philippines. “UN Women is about gender equality, breaking stereotypes, and putting women where there aren’t women,” Davila said.
The program also included a panel discussion between the event’s special guests, Hon. Loren Legarda and H.E. HK Yu PSM, Australian ambassador to the Philippines. As acting moderator, Davila brings up the alarming statistic from the latest UNDT report that 9 out of 10 Filipino women hold biases against their own gender.
Legarda responded, “My suggestion, assuming the survey is accurate,” she laughs, “is let us be conscious of it, and push more women law enforcers, women entrepreneurs, women communicators, women scientists, and women dreamers. Hold fast your dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken windbird that cannot fly.”
As Mesina ended her presentation earlier in the program, what was discussed at the gathering was a call to action: to commit, contribute, and work together toward uplifting Filipino women. She said, “We [at UN Women Philippines] believe that if women are given the platform and the spaces where their voices matter—and we have built their capacities and enhanced their capabilities—they’d be able to participate, and represent, and lead.”
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