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    Creating Inclusive Circles Of Women

    July 21, 2016

    Message at the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Luncheon, Dusit Hotel

    To everyone, magandang magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

    I was working with women and women’s groups for a very long time. Being a woman, a widow, a former politician’s wife, a lawyer helping abused women and women’s groups, a single mother raising three daughters, and now, a woman in a predominantly male political sphere.

    I know that women have so much to offer in this world. Some say we are temperamental, but we are not just because of biology. We are emotional because we care a lot. We are intuitive because we are beings of empathy. We can take charge when needed and churn out 10 decisions per minute because our brains are wired for survival in whatever circumstance.

    Women in business in particular are endowed with even more amazing skills. It is always a joy to watch your power to lead. we sometimes choose not to speak and yet affect the entire conversation.

    But when you do, you do with power that includes rather than excludes, with foresight and with depth.

    So much in the table whether it is at home or in business and that is why it is such an honor and a pleasure to speak before we begin.

    My role this morning is hopefully to spark ideas in your mind on how you can expand the reach of your
influence to places beyond the boardroom.

    I hope that by the end of my talk, you would be willing to make a bit of change in the way you do things so that we can all create opportunities for women down on the ground and create inclusive circles of women nationwide.

    And weighing inclusive circles of women nationwide. Let me talk to you about Fe Carranza, She had polio so her right leg is shorter and much weaker than her left leg. I first saw her outside Naga City Hall and my husband was the Mayor.

    She was trying to start her motorcycle all by herself, with her back at the wheel so she could use her stronger left leg to start the engine. She had been a price of physical contortions she had to do through to achieve that task which is so simple for all of us to do.

    Fe sold tofu to employees of city hall. When I met her I was then the President economic city council of women, I endorsed her to the Department of Science & Technology, who taught her more skills in working with soya and baker equipment.

    She eventually became one of the most outstanding micro-entrepreneurs in Naga City and has seen expanded to selling not only tofu, but also soya milk, nutri-milk made from soya pulp, soya coffee, taho jelly and soya bread. She supplies the DSWD feeding program not only in Naga City but also in many towns in our province

    There are many more stories of success like Fe’s. They all centered on women who had the audacity to dream, as well as a gentle push from a mentor or an organization, who took a chance on them.

    Now when we talk about taking a chance, are you not just referring to its release, mentoring or even capital, there is much support already for those things in our entrepreneurship ecosystem.

    What our small women entrepreneurs need is access to the market. In other words, after which we teach them to dream, after we teach them the skills needed to make those skills come true, we have to show them a way to reach that market for their products or else everything we’ll have done will not be sustainable.

    I am not sure if you saw, but the dress I wore when I first met the President in Malacanang was made by this designer who gets tribal women to make her fabric.

    Then just last Friday, I was in Gumaca, Quezon. There was a restaurant there who also took a chance on his simple mother who sells “nigo trays”. This restaurant’s most popular products were palabok and pancit malabon.

    By buying regularly from this mother, her income rose to P2,500 a week. She has since given her children education, put up her own sari-sari store, and invested in a tricycle for public transportation.

    Because of these learnings, we have filed the Sustainable Procurement Bill in Congress, when I was still a member of congress, that enjoins local and national government units, to include social development in the criteria used to choose suppliers. Government, being a huge market in itself, is in a unique way also in boosting small enterprises.

    We helped so many battered women get emancipation from their abusive husbands. Unfortunately, if they didn’t have economic empowerment, they tend to go back to that abusive relationship.

    This is why we had so many women’s groups in Naga that taught livelihood opportunities to women and there are so many great ideas that come out of this livelihood place. I don’t know if you have heard already about a Pili nut flavored lipstick.

    You must try it! It has natural moisturizers to make your lips kiss-happy.

    What am I saying? We must find ways to create inclusive circles of women. This efforts will not be dole-outs or charity. We tend to create a culture of dependence in the long run anyway.

    But using our unique qualities as women with care, women who are emphatic means, women who can jungle so many things in the air at the same time. We can remodel our rules of engagement so that we can help women micro entrepreneurs down on the ground, link them to the market and find great homes for their products in the market.

    We must think out of the box and not fall into another box. We must innovate and disrupt, if necessary.

    For instance again, in our City in Naga, we remodeled our strategy in helping empowered women economically. Aware that the government is the largest market, we had an agreement with city hall.

    That city hall resource, 50% of their requirements from women micro-entrepreneurs. Whenever they are convention kits, Christmas kits, graduation togas, curtains from the officers, catering for seminars and many other things. Now, even hotels source some of the items they need for decoration from small women micro-entrepreneurs.

    Some organizations built common service facilities which are being used now by several microenterprises at the same time, lowering the costs of doing business. When they did this, sanitation for those involved in food businesses immediately improved.

    Traditionally, we train women and then try to find a market for them. That model doesn’t really work. First, we find demand. And then we train the women into doing things that fulfill that demand. That is our formula for that. Those at the margins need handholding. You are in a unique position to provide that.

    The numbers show there is a significant number of women in business. According to the Department of Trade and Industry, 54% of all registered trade names are owned by women.

    The Asian Institute of Management also conducted a survey that revealed that about 63%of managers and owners of small businesses are women. One major sector they are involved in are micro, small, and medium enterprises, which accounts for 63.7%of our total employment.

    But the statistics I am about to mention next will make us all realize the irony of these numbers.

    Women ranked fifth among the rural poor population, with fisherfolk ranked as the highest (39.2%), followed by farmers (39.2%), children (35.2%), self-employed and unpaid family workers (29%). Large proportions of women who are poor belong to fishing and farmer households.

    Our goal is to have an inclusive economy. It is clear that women are good partners towards having inclusive growth. It will take more than the government to make inclusive growth happen.

    It will take women like you, women like us, who are willing to create inclusive circles of empowerment, of mentoring, of growth that matters.

    There are times when we feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. Me especially.

    Before I came over I was telling some of you that I was meeting with Sec. Gina Lopez, because we are trying to create an integrated approach to housing already.

    The housing backlog in Metro Manila is 1.4M houses. Both Sec. Gina Lopez and I, agree that HUDCC, which I’m now head, don’t really have the capacity to fulfill the housing needs of our constituents so it has to take an integrated movement. From the two hours I spent in DENR this morning, it seems that we are doing a difficult thing.

    We hope to convince this administration to put in more money for housing. But you know the program of housing has been approached with the end of building a houses only and I said it can’t be that way. It has to take an integrated approach.

    I’ve also been telling people I met on the way here that I will be knocking on your doors and on your boardrooms because we need to partner with very many of you. I’m sure the companies you’re working in have CSR programs, we are now the office of the vice president, it’s a process of putting together all the programs out there and screening.

    We have the mandate to get this all together to maximize our resources. In a few months we hope to send to your offices what needs to be done out there so that we can find our partners and programs. So really, it would be such a joy to look forward to partnering with many of you. But I do understand the demands on women like me who are very successful.

    I close this talk with a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi: If you feel helpless, help someone. When we live for others, that’s when we make the most of the true nature of our power. That of inclusivity, of empathy, of hope.

    Thank you all for listening to me today.

    I think even before I won as Vice President I already had an invitation from you, so thank you very much.

    You are so presumptuous!

    But thank you very much, it is such an honor to be speaking in front of you.

    Thank you.

    Posted in Speeches on Jul 21, 2016