UN Women WeEmpowerAsia Philippines launches Women’s Empowerment Principles Winners Circle


[Press release]

Winners of the 2021 UN Women WEPs Awards  in the Philippines
Winners of the 2021 UN Women WEPs Awards in the Philippines (holding trophies) together with (upper left to right )Mr, Gustavo Gonzalez, UN Resident Coordinator; HE Saskia de Lang, EU Gender Champion and Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Philippines and; Mr. Christoph Wagner, EU Delegation Head of Cooperation; and Ms. Lenlen Mesina, UN Women WeEmpowerAsia Philippines Programme Manager.

MANILA, Philippines — On December 3, 2021, winners of the annual Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Awards for 2020 and 2021 gathered at the ceremonial kick-off of the WEPs Winners Circle to celebrate gender equality champions and discuss how to further the work to advocate for women's empowerment, gender equality, diversity and inclusion across the workplace, marketplace, and community.

Organized by the UN Women WeEmpowerAsia programme and supported by the European Union, the WEPs Awards recognizes leaders, businesses, and companies for their achievements in advancing gender equality in business.

As the pandemic has increased the double burden on working women with additional responsibilities at home, companies were encouraged to step up and ensure women remain crucial members of the workplace, and to help advance their participation despite the adversities. The winners of the UN WEPs Awards are testament to how women can still succeed given the right platforms and opportunities. 

UN Women Philippines Country Programme Manager Lenlen Mesina welcomed the winners at the event after face-to-face gatherings and events in the past had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. “The work that you all do is not just translating in the companies where you operate or you serve. It also creates impact on the communities where you belong. Today, aside from the trophy handover, we would like to share with you the vision on how we can move forward together where we hope as women’s empowerment champions, you can add voice and amplify the changes we need to make to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment within and outside your businesses, companies, organizations, households and to other communities as well.,” she said.

Christoph Wagner, EU Delegation Head of Cooperation, reiterated how the EU prioritizes gender equality, women’s empowerment, socio-economic development, and the role women play in accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Companies, and the private sector in general, can play a crucial role in empowering women. But this is not self-evident. You have shown the way and have provided best practices - in the marketplace, your own work environment and the communities you’re working with. Thank you for that!” he said.

Saskia de Lang, EU Gender Champion and ambassador of the Netherlands in the Philippines, said: “We recognize that to better address the gender gap, we need women to represent women’s interests and ideas; to make decisions; to take the lead because it will also open opportunities for many more women.”

Meanwhile, UN Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez as keynote speaker highlighted that the Philippines is truly making substantive progress in gender equality in the Asia Pacific region. He also shared that the new normal is presenting new opportunities for gender equality and women empowerment. “We have to harness such opportunities to foster more inclusive business models. Experience shows that gender equality not only improves working environments but also enhances innovation and reinforces sustainability. In this transformative process, we ensure to incorporate and address the needs of women, as workers, business leaders and decision makers,” he shared.

WEPs Awards 2020 & 2021 Philippines
WEPs Awards 2020 & 2021 in a workshop discussing how to further promote women’s empowerment and gender equality in business, workplace and communities

Furthering Gender Equality in business and workplace

Mesina challenged all the winners by facilitating a group discussion called “Winners Rising Up to the WEPs Challenge” for them to brainstorm and share ideas for collaboration that could contribute further to the achievements of five out of the 17 SDGs, namely SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

The discussion allowed winners to create action items for collaboration and benchmarking, while encouraging each other to replicate their successful programmes across different communities.

Jourgie Hornilla, human resources manager at Shell Business Operations in Manila, shared key pointers such as the importance of setting themselves as role models for other women and educating not just women, but also men, to help remove unconscious biases in the workplace.

Representatives from Investing in Women, Philippine National Bank, and Procter & Gamble summarized their recommendations in four points: the importance of leadership commitment to gender equality to be able to achieve programmes and plans; how crucial data is in decision-making, creating action plans, benchmarking, and measuring success; making available a platform to share best practices is a must to learn from other successful businesses; and that gender inclusivity is not always about making profits and ensuring company bottom line but also about retaining and growing the best talent in the workplace.

Breaking glass ceilings

In 2020 and 2021, the WEPs Awards honoured gender-equality champions who continued to set the bar high for solutions on gender equality. The awards aim to encourage more businesses to push for programmes, policies, and encourage participation of women in leadership and decision-making roles that can create more opportunities for other women too.

Philippine fashion brand BAYO bagged the prize for Champion of Gender Responsive Marketplace in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region, as well as 2nd runner up for Community Engagement and Partnership category in this year’s WEPs Awards.

“Through UN Women, we can all share our common stories to create a stronger voice and narrative, for our business and the communities we also seek to serve and support,” said chief executive and co-founder Anna Lagon. “From there, we can have a stronger springboard for all of these actions to start a similar course. It would really help to organize discussions, coming up with set of ambassadors to be in the core front for communication to promote empowering stories of women and inspire more.”

The Women’s Empowerment Principles is a framework introduced by the UN Women and UN Global Compact in 2010 to stir action from the private sector to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in leadership, workplaces, marketplaces and the community. To join the WEPs, visit https://www.weps.org/join.

Watch the video of the Philippines WEPs Award for year 2020 and 2021.

About WeEmpowerAsia

WeEmpowerAsia is a UN Women programme funded by and in partnership with the European Union that aims to increase the number of women who lead and participate in business in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. Launched in 2019, its purpose is to advance inclusive and sustainable growth and build more gender-sensitive trade and supply chains between European and Asian markets through the Women’s Empowerment Principles focus.

About UN Women

UN Women is the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, the organization was established in 2010 to accelerate progress on women’s rights worldwide. UN Women’s efforts are based on the fundamental belief that every woman has the right to live a life free from violence, poverty, and discrimination, and that gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving global development.

About the European Union

The European Union is made up of 27 Member States who have decided to gradually link together their know-how, resources and destinies. Together, during a period of enlargement of 50 years, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development while maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedoms.