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ASEAN on women’s empowerment

Of great importance to women is the 31st ASEAN Summit’s adoption on Nov. 13, 2017 of the Action Agenda on Mainstreaming Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) in ASEAN. The Action Agenda had been approved and submitted to the Summit  at the conclusion of the ASEAN Women’s Business Conference last August  2017.

The adoption of the agenda, according to business leader Pacita “Chit” Juan, will “pave the way for mainstreaming the gender agenda across all the ASEAN pillars. The development of the  ASEAN Inclusive Business Framework to promote inclusive business will benefit women-owned enterprises which  comprise majority of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). The adoption also brought to the consciousness of the leaders the important role and contribution of women in the ASEAN economy.”

My friend, Philippine National Bank chair Flor G. Tarriela, has written about the empowerment of women in the ASEAN economy. She brought to mind the question, “Is there a case for ‘Womenomics’ in ASEAN?’ raised by Ma. Aurora “Boots” Garcia, co-chair of ASEAN Women’s Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) at the Phl-Australia Forum which had the theme “Women Empowerment, The Next Driver of success.” The Forum encouraged collaboration between government, the business community and women entrepreneurs to achieve women economic empowerment goals of ASEAN.

How economically empowered are women in the region? Flor writes that the ASEAN population/market is more than 600 million, a third of the world’s labor force and an economy with GDP of $2.4 trillion. Women account for 50.1  percent of the ASEAN population and 43 percent of the ASEAN workforce. Yet the women potential is not maximized.  Flor quotes Boots Garcia as saying, “The ASEAN is not harnessing all its strength. Studies show that ASEAN stands to lose about 17 percent of GDP due to untapped women potential and persistent gender gaps in the labor force and entrepreneurship.”

Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Dr. Sharman Stone (Australia has a ministry specifically for women and girls) said that based on the McKin-sey Global study, “If there is equal participation of men and women in the workforce, it will boost the GDP of the ASEAN economy by 30 percent.”

Jack Ma, legendary founder of Alibaba, was reported as saying  that women balance the yin and yang of a company with their instinct and logic. He said the women are the “secret sauce of the company.”  To this Boots responds, “Okay! NO more excuses…time to move forward.”

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Chit Juan, co-chair of AWEN, says AWEN is connecting the power of ASEAN to the rest of the world. “When we are connected, we realize the true potential of women to contribute to family incomes.”

Flor offers practical advice from women leaders, to entrepreneurs to wit: Build influence. How?

1. Increase your visibility. Learn to network. Build purposeful networks.

2. Watch and learn from other women role models,  how they behave. Look for a good mentor.

3. Use targets to drive change. If it’s not measured, it doesn’t count.

4. Continuously improve yourself by training. Always try to learn something new.

5. Be digital, the world is  the market, so think Big! And it’s gender neutral.

6. ACT and EXECUTE on your idea and dream.

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For the first time since its founding, One World School is holding an art exhibit on Nov. 25, at Warehouse 12 A, La Fuerza Compound, 2241, Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City. 

This is a unique exhibit, as it showcases the artistic outputs of students with disabilities.

The exhibit, titled “Nilay,” serves two purposes: One, as an avenue for the school’s students to express themselves, and second, to serve as a fundraiser for the school’s Facilities Expansion Project for School Year 2018-2019.

One World School was founded five years ago for students with special needs. Classes are from pre-school to Grade 6. Some have autism spectrum disorder, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and specific learning disabilities.

It was founded by Ericson Perez, a Filipino who studied at Brown University, and took his master’s degree at Washington University as a scholar. He went to Kenya as a peace corps volunteer, and helped stabilize an educational system in his area of assignment. 

When Ericson came to Manila he looked around and saw where something unique is needed. He founded One World School, and continues to serve as its headmaster. The campus is located at 444 Edsa, Guadalupe Viejo, Makati. 

Al-Hadj Ayunan Gunting, a public relations practitioner, visited the campus once and has become a permanent volunteer at the facility.   He is so impressed by Ericson’s mission his own mission is to encourage awareness of the significance of OWS in helping children and young adults overcome their difficulties.

According to Gunting,  Department of Education  curricula are used by highly motivated teachers who make modifications in their handling of courses. 

Teachers are trained in such areas as applied behavior analysis, and  TEACH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication-related Handicapped Children). Teachers employ individual instruction to fit students’ peculiar needs.

Students at the school range from ages two to 31 years. Many of them are children of expatriates, well-heeled couples  and overseas Filipino workers.           

Each year, a new level is added to the school’s offerings. So next year, a seventh grade will be added. An extra course on vocational education is offered to students with special interests. 

According to Gunting, “Common among many of the students is the challenge to express themselves through standard means of communication, such as speaking, writing, as well as body language. Because of their difficulties with verbal communication, many often do not understand their thoughts, feelings, or desires.”

Thus the  teachers, therapists, families and caregivers must assist them with finding and using the right words, says Ayong. “Unfortunately, this can still lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. What they truly want to express can become lost in the words others try to use, with them and for them. This, however, in no way means that they have less to say, less to express, or less to share.“

The art exhibit on Nov. 25 took months of planning. Art teacher Precious Jewel Gamboa  conceptualized how the students  can express themselves in the most authentic ways. Included in this process was the exploration of different media, techniques, and even settings. The goal was for each individual to have and to feel the most freedom possible with self-expression through art.

Ayong says, ‘’What resulted in this process was amazing! From the sounds of their laughter, the smiles on their faces, and the joy in their eyes, there was no doubt the students immensely enjoyed creating their final pieces. Each artwork created was what each individual wanted to express.“ 

“ Nilay” is the Tagalog word for reflect. Nilay asks observers to reflect on what it means to express oneself, to share, to communicate, and to be authentic. 

All  the 85 students,  ages two to 30+ will have at least one piece of artwork on display and for auction at the exhibit.

Proceeds  from the art auction will go to the school’s Facilities Expansion Project for School Year 2018-2019. As more local and international families discover One World School, the school’s  enrollment and programs continue to grow. Many individuals with special needs who fail in their school work and are rejected, bullied, expelled, or just left out in many schools, are welcome at  One World School.  

Interested parties may call 8964121 or 5029438.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com


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