A Partnership for Change: SM Supermalls, the UN, and the Philippine Commission on Women Hold Joint Forum for Women Empowerment

A celebration of International Women’s Day, the forum championed progress in gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly entrepreneurs.

Last March 8, International Women’s Day, three organizations joined forces to champion women’s rights and empowerment by holding a forum titled “Investing in Equality toward a Gender-inclusive Prosperity.” Leading the summit were SM Supermalls, UN Women and the government’s Philippine Commission on Women (PCW). The landmark forum was held at the Samsung Hall, SM Aura, Taguig City with attendees from all sectors of the nation, women’s rights advocates, as well as women leaders in business and entrepreneurship.

Speaking at the forum were Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, the UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo González, Philippine Commission on Women Officer-in-Charge Atty. Khay Ann C. Magundayao-Borlado, and She Loves Tech co-founder Leanne Robers.

Steven Tan, President of SM Supermalls, opened the one-day summit, beginning the discussion on critical topics that involve women and the issues they spearhead. These include topics such as:

  • Poverty alleviation
  • Strengthening of institutions
  • Gender-inclusive financing
  • The role of technology in the empowerment of women, particularly entrepreneurs
women empowerment
SM Supermalls President Steven Tan

Empowering Women in Business

Leading the discussion about women empowerment in business was guest speaker and She Loves Tech co-founder, Leanne Robers. She spoke about the role technology plays in the advancement of women in business. 

Singapore-based She Loves Tech co-founder, Leanne Robers

“We cannot understate the benefits of a world where women are involved in shaping our future through technology,” she said.

Following the address by Robers, a panel discussion was held featuring other prominent women in business. Joining Robers in the panel were Anne Emperado-Macababat of Malanne, Eliza Antonino of Moment Group, and creative and social entrepreneur Zarah Juan. Together, they spoke about how businesses can bridge the gender gap and promote change through technology.

women empowerment
She Loves Tech co-founder, Leanne Robers (leftmost), Anne Emperado-Macababat of Malanne (second from right), Eliza Antonino of Moment Group (third from left), and creative and social entrepreneur Zarah Juan (second from left), with UN Women Champion Bianca Gonzalez (right)

Another panel discussion discussed the benefits and challenges of technology in finance. This panel included Leila Martin of Landbank, Atty. Federico Tancongco and Joel Andres of BDO Unibank, and Gina Romero of Connected Women.

Landbank’s Leila Martin (third from left), BDO Unibank’s Atty. Federico Tancongco (left) and Joel Andres (second from right), Connected Women’s Gina Romero (second from left), and UN Women Champion Bianca Gonzalez (right)

Keynote by Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda

Delivering the keynote speech for the forum, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda spoke about the role of legislation in promoting women’s rights. In particular, she highlighted the burden of unpaid care and domestic work by women.

According to Senator Legarda, it is time to provide more opportunities for women in all sectors of society, whether it be in entrepreneurship or rural development.

“To do so in practical terms,” she said, “we need to ensure that our gains progress into real benefits for women on the ground while considering their own resources and capacities. Just like power, resources cannot be mere dole-outs as this could potentially suppress women’s ability to use their local resources such as those obtained from foraging and other ecosystem services.” 

Senator Legarda has long supported women’s issues through her legislative efforts, including support for cornerstone laws like the Magna Carta of Women and the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act.

Keynote speaker Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda

Messages from UN Women and the Philippine Commission on Women

Leaders from UN Women and the Philippine Commission on Women were also present at the forum.

During the first panel discussion,“Championing Women Empowerment: A Global Perspective,” Gustavo González, United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, emphasized that change must be implemented at the local, regional, or national level so that it will be sustainable, reminding attendees of the forum of the immense task that lies ahead.

“We celebrate, but we also recognize the enormous obstacles that women face from structural discrimination, marginalization, violence, to cascading crises that affect them,” González said. “First and worst, to the denial of their personal autonomy and rights over their bodies and lives. So, we live in a world where women enjoy less than 2/3 of their legal rights available to men.” 

UN Philippines Resident Coordinator Gustavo González

From the Philippine Commission on Women, Atty. Khay Ann C. Magundayao-Borlado spoke about creating an inclusive and equal society.

“The Philippine Commission on Women encourages all of you to work double for this advocacy,” Atty. Borlado said, “invest in women, and accelerate progress for a Lipunang Patas sa Bagong Pilipinas [An Equal Society in the New Philippines] where no one, regardless of  gender, is left behind and where gender equality is a lived reality,” 

A Strategic Imperative for a Better World

Jessica Sy, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. Assistant Vice President and Program Director, concluded the forum with her closing remarks, reminding attendees of the forum’s goal to be a catalyst for action towards a more inclusive society.

“Investing in women is not just a moral imperative, but a strategic imperative for a better world,” Sy said.

SM Prime Holdings, Inc. Assistant Vice President and Program Director Jessica Sy

The forum proved to be a success in amplifying the voices of women in the Philippines and harnessing the power of collaboration across sectors. It is a call to action for each of us to create a future where women empowerment is at the forefront of progress.

The IWD summit is one of the highlights of SM Supermalls’ celebration of Women’s Month this March and was also supported by BDO, Belle du Jour, Brittany Hotel, Brownies Unlimited, Crate & Barrel, Toby’s Estate, Goldilocks, and SM Store.