Of steps and teeth | Inquirer Opinion
Women who lead

Of steps and teeth

The COVID pandemic continues to expose the vulnerability of women in our social, economic, and even political systems. Our advocacy work in PhilWEN, or the Philippine Women’s Economic Network, a coalition of women’s business organizations focused on the economic empowerment aspect, has never been more important as it is today. Granted, women’s advocacy, especially on the economic empowerment front, has been less than a decade in focus, but STEPS forward continue to be taken.


Locally PhilWEN’s different organizations each focus on our women beneficiaries in various levels and stages (micro, startup entrepreneurs, professionals, women rising in the corporate ladder, women business owners and corporate directors). It’s the ladder that helps us push women upward and stronger into positions of power or economic steadiness. Since 2017, PhilWEN, through partnerships with local and international organizations, has managed more than $1.6 million for projects.

But what we need now is to grow TEETH to support the resiliency direction! These are the policies and laws that we can create and pass to bring empowerment to women in the marketplace, workplace, and communities. What’s with our magna carta of women? It’s been forever there with no real teeth except some joint memorandum circulars. How are our existing executive orders moving toward action? How can the gender and development budgets be really focused, accounted for, and made more hardworking?


We must also point out how strategic interventions have been done by PhilWEN regionally for women’s economic empowerment as the next driver for Asean’s post-pandemic recovery. Interventions included bringing the women discussion beyond the Asean’s sociocultural pillar and into the economic pillar.

So teeth developed when, working with the Asean Women’s Entrepreneur Network (AWEN), this women’s seat has been established with the representation in the Asean Business Advisory Council. It also took a couple of years for the launch of the Asean Action Agenda on Mainstreaming Women’s Economic Empowerment (AAWEE). Teeth grew as AAWEE was adopted by Asean leaders in 2017. This gave teeth for Asean leaders to encourage all their member states to step up mainstream women’s economic empowerment through trade, innovation, and inclusive business.

This adoption meant concerted efforts by PhilWEN, in 2019, to initiate the implementation and operationalization of the action agenda. This was done with AWEN and in partnership with Oxfam to mainstream this in the AEC (Asean Economic Community). The briefing paper entitled: “Asean through a gender lens: Recommendations for the full implementation of the action agenda on mainstreaming women’s economic empowerment in Asean” was not only teeth, this was a sharp fang (!) that gives specific, concrete, and measurable actions, and policy recommendations to the AEC to mainstream women’s economic empowerment, plus recommendations to create an enabling environment for women-owned and women-led businesses to thrive in the region.

After all is said, done, discussed, and debated over, we stand by the statement that unless more TEETH (okay, FANGS) are grown, (more policies and laws created to support the advocacy), then all else, as the Good Book says, are just vanities.


Jeannie E. Javelosa is a thought leader for culture, sustainability, and gender. She is an awarded artist with 20 one-woman exhibits; a writer-awarded book author and speaker. As an entrepreneur, she cofounded award-winning enterprises such as the EON Group, ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle, and GREAT Women. She was Asia-Pacific finalist winner of the 2012 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award in Paris; 2018 Go Negosyo Outstanding Women’s Entrepreneur awardee; 2018 Outstanding Asean Women Entrepreneur awardee from Bangkok; For GREAT Women, she won the 2020 UN WEPs Philippine Champion Awards for two categories, and second runner-up in the Asia Pacific Regional Awards. She is also president of GREAT Women Philippines and a trustee of PhilWEN.


Women Who Lead is an initiative of PhilWEN.

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