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International Women's Summit 2021 Honors the Role of Women

The International Women Summit 2021 convened nearly 1,000 women and men leaders representing government, inter-governmental, civic, faith and youth organizations convened on February 26-27 to commemorate International Women’s Month. Dr. Nona S. Ricafort served as the primary convener of the summit. She is president of Global Peace Women Philippines and a core pillar of the summit hosting partners: Global Peace Foundation Philippines (GPFP), National Council of Women of the Philippines (NCWP) and the YWCA Founder’s Federation of the Philippines Inc. (YWCA FFPI). 

The summit entitled, “Women Global Leaders’ Vision of Tomorrow: Challenges and Opportunities Amidst the Pandemic,” addressed the challenges and setbacks to the UN SDGs in light of the pandemic. The global convening provided a platform to cultivate collaborative, multi-sectoral, global partnerships and empower women to continue to rebuild in the wake of the global crisis.

Dr. Ricafort noted the crucial role women had during the pandemic, sustaining their families, communities and nations. She encouraged participants, “not only to build and strengthen bridges of friendship and partnership, but also share with each other our heroic experiences and successes.” 

Dr. Soonok Kang, President of Global Peace Women joined the esteemed line-up of speakers who addressed the theme. “We celebrate you, women from every sector, striving to seize the opportunities that will bring change for a better me, a better family, a better community, nation and world,” said Dr. Kang, highlighting the courageous and creative action that women took at the height of the 2020 COVID19 outbreak. She presented 4 core values of leadership as a formula for transforming challenges into opportunities, encouraging more women-led efforts to help heal the world after the disruption of the past year. 

Speakers recognized the unique qualities of women leadership on all levels. Dr. Bina Vyas, President of International Inner Wheel, listed persistence, resourcefulness, confidence and resilience, as key characteristics of women leadership. Other speakers recognized past and present examples of women leaders who have changed the world for the better. Former Mayor of San Fernando City, La Union, recipient of the UN Scroll of Honour Award, Mary Jane C. Ortega spoke of the powerful influence of her mother in developing her confidence as a leader. Philippines former Health Secretary Jon Janette Garin talked about women-initiated efforts during the initial outbreak of COVID19 to make testing available and affordable to the public. Suman Lai, President of South West Pacific Soroptimist International presented efforts to equip women in rural areas to more effectively generate their own food sources and income.

Other speakers included: President, ASEAN Confederation of Women Organizations, June Goh, District Governor Quota International District, Luisa B. Liboro, Director SEMEO Innotech International, Dr. Ethel P. Valenzuela, President, Soroptimist International of the Americas Penny Babb, President, Federation of United Nations Association Dr. Amelia Benitez-Reyes, President-elect Zonta International Ute Scholz, Singapore Council of Women Association, President Junie Foo, Director, Zonta International Ma. Imelda Dandy S. Gomez.

Breakout sessions addressed Women in Public Service, Women in Healthcare Service/Mental Health, Women in Education, Safe Space for Women. As a result, seven areas of critical need were identified and submitted for consideration to the UN: Education, Peace and Security, Public Service, Socio-Economic Development, Health Care, Environment and Food Security.

The Summit closed with a call for women and men to work together and seize the new-found opportunities to cultivate women leadership for positive progress. “The door has been opened to wider horizons that allow women to be leaders, movers, innovators and agents of change.”