March is for Women

A SPIRITED SOUL - Jeannie E. Javelosa - The Philippine Star
I was going through my stockroom looking for some images to inspire me for a collection of merchandise I wanted to design. I chanced upon my old paintings and graphic prints. The search was like uncovering an old part of me when I was an artist many, many moons back. I came across a number of my lithograph prints, which I created in the early ‘90s and realized how a consistent theme has been woven, not only in my art then but in the work and advocacies I do today.

In my print titled Primeval Growth, there is a woman’s form rising, her breast exposed, her body stretching, becoming, yet merging almost, with the foliage of nature around her. It struck me that I was, and still am today, working with the rising force of the Feminine.

The rise of the feminine energy is what drives the Great Women platform and brand work I do as we try to make sense of the potential economic empowerment a woman can have once given the chance. It is the drive that brings men and women who are working together on this platform of women’s economic empowerment to step-as-one to look at gaps like market access need, financial support, the new directions that technology and trainings can give women entrepreneurs no matter the level she may be in. My work has brought me towards collaborations and groups of women that go beyond just mere success exchanges, shopping sprees, and power trips. Finding one’s self in a women’s group with supportive friendships can truly help make one whole and stronger as a force for positive change.

I am part of an informal group of friends called GWG. The acronym has constantly been changing depending on our mood: from Geeweez Girls, to Great Women Gang, to Giggle With Glee, Gaga Women Group, Go-go Women Gang, Grabe Women Group, Go with God, Girls with Glam, etc. One underlying word I coined for our activities is: USELESS. So, after a hectic day where everyone seems to be running, we collapse together to do brainless, useless things such as learn how to download a game on the phone, gossip a little, discuss recipes and hang out. Relax and be.

Everyone in the group is a leader. Everyone is a warrior, mover, shaker, an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment. Everyone is a power woman with a project underneath her many hats that support women’s empowerment. And in this space where we celebrate “useless” things, we eat, talk, share, cry, embrace, agree to argue, collaborate for positive activity — giving rise to the experience of the “feminine.” And here is what is interesting: egos are left outside. Plus, we like quoting Margaret Albright, who, in a speech in 2006, said, “There is a place in hell for women who do not help other women!” Yes, we have finally agreed to the use of broomsticks, allow the world to call us names for the advocacies we push even as we focus on detailed orientation for the vision of economic empowerment, agree to renew a national and world sisterhood that shares the distinct objective of helping other women advance.

Sometimes, as I watch our gatherings, it makes me think of what drives us women so hard to prove ourselves. Juggling between career, family, relationships, here in this microcosm of the GWG, are women trying to balance the feminine power to arise strongly, steadily, synergistically, in the myriad of expressions of our work and roles. And I believe this is why the GWG becomes a looked-to gathering where everyone tries to block off her schedule to meet: the collective has become one’s personal board of advisers, strategist group and peer counselors. And here in the playground of the feminine, we all acknowledge that our lives seek to balance our inner energies with our outward accomplishments, fully accepting our need for support, for teamwork, alignment, collaborations and inclusions sans the egoic competition — these, all expressions of the feminine!

Now let us not forget the men behind the GWG. Each GWG woman has a male counterpart who continues to support her, while keeping the male ego aside. There are the fathers who have always believed and pushed these daughters, the husbands and partners who believe in their women wholeheartedly who have chosen to be wind beneath their wings. There are also the male colleagues who respect the women’s intellect and strength and don’t mind their egos put in their places now and then. And there is the occasional male, who, through the problematic personal relationships, has challenged the women to be stronger, wiser and independent.

One pattern of strength I see with all the GWG members is the constant effort of balancing from a core. Balancing the many responsibilities of work and family, balancing their nurturing hearts and mentoring skills. Balancing their personal lives against a bigger societal direction. And always from a core that embraces solid values, religiosity or spirituality.

March is for women. If you are a woman, find that group — be it your soccer moms, high school friends, dance or sports women buddies. If you are a man, go try to join a women’s group to check how healthy your ego can be. Go celebrate and have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with at least two women this month.

On March 11, the ECHOsi Foundation, in partnership with the Philippine Commission on Women, supported by the Government of Canada, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Yuchengco Museum, will hold the Great Women Forum as a venue to mobilize support from institutional and individual stakeholders to forge inclusive businesses through the procurement and sourcing from women vendors in the MSMEs level.

Throughout the forum from March 10 to 12, the Yuchengco Museum will host the Great Women Trade Exchange Program. This will be open to the public in a bazaar-like environment for customers seeking themed, design-driven textile products from women-owned enterprises and women designers working with community groups and other micro-entrepreneurs. This also highlights the Great Women Lifestyle Brand Collection — a collaborative effort among a number of women entrepreneurs, manufacturers and designers.

(For more information about the Great Women Trade Exchange, call 889-1234.)

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