By French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz
Photos courtesy of ACTED Philippines
This weekend thanks to the help of SM Group, Airspeed and Philippine Airlines, we are proud to present a Womenpreneur Market, showcasing the agricultural products of 20 cooperatives from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). These cooperatives are supported in a project funded by the French government and implemented by ACTED, an NGO with unique know-how and achievements since its creation in Afghanistan in 1993. Please come, interact and enjoy these unique items at SM Podium, Mandaluyong City, between 10am and 10pm until Sunday the 26th of March. Other artefacts such as clothes and bags with unique patterns from the Bangsamoro region will also be displayed for you.
Between 2000 and 2019, 10 UN Security resolutions that form the foundation of the “women, peace, and security agenda” have been voted. In particular, it has been recognized in 2013 that gender equality and women’s empowerment are critical to international peace and security. For this reason, we decided the cooperatives selected for this project had to meet the “inclusive” criteria, meaning they had to be led by women or mostly formed by women.
Supporting businesses is paramount to the long-term socio-economic stabilization in post-conflict contexts, such as the BARMM. Beyond much-needed financial or technical assistance, this project actually contributes to the consolidation of a marketplace for agricultural projects in the BARMM region, through pop-up markets in Cotabato City, where cooperatives and clients from different regions of the BARMM can match supply and demand but also exchange good practices.
This Womenpreneur Market in SM Podium pushes further this dynamic as it exposes these small agricultural businesses to a national audience, with potential leads to clients from the whole country. It is our greatest hope these interactions will turn into long-term exchanges and stable sources of revenues for these BARMM cooperatives. It was recently argued in a UN forum in Manila that the development of the Philippines would be seriously hindered in the near future, would the peace process in the BARMM not further deepen. Market-driven successes might be one of the best chances for the region to anchor itself in long-lasting peace and stability.
This project also focuses on an issue that is not limited to the BARMM: food security. Through the provision of training on sustainable agricultural practices, agricultural cooperatives can better adapt to climate change. Practices such as the use of bio-pesticides and organic fertilizers help cooperatives minimize the impact of their activity on the environment and increase their production. Through increased production, these initiatives also increase the availability and affordability of food items in local markets. In addition, by fostering partnerships with local school canteens, local children can enjoy access to fresh and nutritious produce. Ultimately, the project helps improve the food security of the community as a whole.
Since 2018, France has been promoting a feminist diplomacy. In July 2021, the Generation Equality Forum was organized by France and raised 40 billion USD to promote a Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality. France committed 400m€ for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and 333m€ for girl’s education. As this project shows, women empowerment is now a general criteria for 75% of French development assistance, in all areas. We are glad France and the Philippines share the same views and values when it comes to gender equality and its relevance to social, economic and political areas.