SEF, THE PHILIPPINES
About a year after attending Plan International USA’s Global Women in Management (GWIM) 60 in 2014, Sef began working with other women leaders to design a project that highlights the growing importance of female farmers in sustainable rural development—and at the same time harnesses their untapped potential as entrepreneurs and leaders in the agricultural sector.
The two-year project was approved and funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Global Women Issues (S/GWI), and the project reach to date is about 1,500 farmers and farm workers, 90 percent of whom are women, in the Province of Zamboanga del Sur in the Philippines.
Linked to this project, Sef has helped implement two initiatives that are improving women farmers’ and micro entrepreneurs’ access to markets: Tindahan ni Juana (Store of Juana), a social enterprise and retail store that sells local products from marginalized communities; and the Farmhers Market, a Sunday market that enables local farmers to sell seasonal, naturally-grown produce to provide the community access to fresh and nutritious food.
Sef found the community of women from GWIM to be the most critical to her personal development, as she gained both “inspiration and confidence” from the “like-minded female leaders” in the program. GWIM enabled Sef to form “friendships spanning across the globe that will last a lifetime.”
Sef also found new invigoration through the inspiration of GWIM.
“Being part of the GWIM family gives me courage and strength to work harder,” she said. “It also gives me hope for a better future for our planet and all its inhabitants.”
This hope has driven her to mentor other women through the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Agriculture and become a Trustee of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation.
Her greatest piece of advice? To reach for the stars, and encourage other women to do the same.
“Women need to lift each other up,” she said. “Be open to learn and open to take on leadership roles—even if this might come at a cost—because the opportunities are worth the sacrifices.”
Lady Nne, Nigeria
Lady Nne, an alumna of the first ExxonMobil-funded Global Women in Management Workshop (GWIM 40) in 2005, is a force to be reckoned with. Since GWIM, Lady Nne has gone on to become one of the top leaders in grassroots mobilization, human resource capital and microfinancing in Nigeria. Her organization boasts over 20,000 members throughout the country and has been operating as a micro-financing institution recognized by the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2008. The next step is becoming a micro-finance bank in Nigeria, which is currently underway. She has also held a series of leadership positions within the Association of Non-Bank Microfinance Institutions of Nigeria, an apex organization for microfinance institutions regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
GWIM, according to Lady Nne, was the catalyst she needed to really jumpstart her career. “By implementing the new practical skills, content knowledge and growth attitudes that I acquired during my GWIM workshop, I was able to evaluate and redesign every program within my organization. That’s when I really had a breakthrough.”
While she recognizes that she has likely benefitted from a many aspects of GWIM, Lady Nne believes that above all, the most important part was the detailed course material.
“Because the content was entirely new to me, I was acquiring skills that I had never before been given the opportunity to learn. I left GWIM incredibly excited to put them into practice, and quickly capitalized on them to bring about rapid career advancements.”
To the next generation of women leaders, Lady Nne has one note of advice—learn to make one’s natural talents beneficial to others. “Words alone will not be enough to express your value, but if you put your skills to practical use, people will feel your impact—and that will bring you all the joy you need.”
When Harining isn’t participating in classical Javanese dancing, she spends her time teaching young children about the rich cultural traditional of hand-woven Indonesian cloth. She also designs and oversees production of recycled handicrafts for the Daughters of Klaten, the company that she founded to market handmade Indonesian textiles and cloth goods. The company focuses on promoting the local culture and craftsmanship to a global audience and empowering women financially. Harining is currently exploring the use of coconut fiber in creating materials and has collaborated with other GWIM alumnae to develop online marketing sites for women entrepreneurs in Indonesia.
An alumna of GWIM 61, Ning draws her inspiration from the other women she met during the workshop—they make her “endlessly grateful” for everything a woman can do as a mother, wife, and citizen. She channels their motivational strength into her work within communities, preserving cultural heritage and “pursuing a higher, more credible capacity to empower women through education.”
The most important part of GWIM for Harining was the confidence it instilled in her, as she came to recognize how self-image, resilience and perseverance are all necessary for women to succeed. She recommends that women entering GWIM be grateful for the opportunity, and “be open to other people’s ideas and life’s surprise opportunities.”