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International Women’s Day 2018: Southeast Asian Women Entrepreneurs Share How They Make A Difference

Celebrating women entrepreneurs not just today but always

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BY Pauline Mendoza - 08 Mar 2018

International Women’s Day 2018: Southeast Asian Women Entrepreneurs Share How They Make A Difference

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Today, March 8, is a global reminder to press for progress — where women are included and celebrated and society’s political, economic, and cultural environment are gradually reconstructed and viewed through the clearer lens of gender parity. Just as what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says, “In the future there won't be women leaders. Just leaders.”

This International Women’s Day, Southeast Asian women entrepreneurs share how they make a difference in their industries, start-ups, and communities.

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, founder of social enterprises Rags2Riches and Things That Matter PH, is making the business of doing good fashionable. In Payatas, where most of Metro Manila’s garbage is dumped, she found a win-win opportunity. She is empowering women from urban poor communities by enabling them to earn for their family.

“We saw a group of artisans, they’re mostly women, making foot rugs out of fabric, and they didn’t have access to the supply of the materials and the market; they are in the middle of so many middlemen. That’s why they were earning only PHP10 to PHP16 a day,” shares Fernandez-Ruiz.

“We realized that there was this gap and that there’s no opportunity to be a business partner with the community of women [in Payatas],” she adds. Ever since, Fernandez-Ruiz has been filling gaps and making more opportunities for more women to be included in the business ecosystem without being prone to abuse.

For Singapore-based Lynly Fong, director of Sportswear company Spirit Sports, it is about supporting other women entrepreneurs in a male-dominated world. She advises them, “Trust yourself.”

“Not all of your friends will get your idea, and to be a woman entrepreneur in the region, you have to believe in yourself and your ideas. Somewhere through the journey, you will end up being the captain of your ship and you need to lead everyone with your conviction,” she says.

Embodiment facilitator and energy management coach Dona Tumacder-Esteban, for her part, encourages women to embrace their full fierce self to be able to be at their best in business and in life — and that includes, the most natural thing in women’s bodies yet taboo in professional settings, menstruation.

“The period is a blessing. It can detoxify. It can create. Connect yourself first…Notice the shifts that happen to you as you shift your lifestyle. And then tell others. Create wider and wider circles,” she says in her TEDx talk last November 2017, explaining that women must embrace the menstrual cycle as a creative cycle with “hormonal cocktails” women can maximize.

So as we welcome the month of March as International Women’s Month, make today a reminder to celebrate women not just today but always.

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