#MeToo, HeForShe take center stage at the 2nd She Talks Asia Summit

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This year's summit, themed "She Is Self-Made," featured talks by accomplished women like broadcaster Karen Davila, actress, body positivity advocate and She Talks Asia co-founder Iza Calzado, and financial guru Tonya Rapley-Flash, and panel discussions with themes ranging from Global Girl Boss and HeForShe, to The Right Speech, Body Love, and #MeToo. Photo courtesy of SHE TALKS ASIA

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Last year, She Talks Asia premiered its first conference with the theme “Every Girl Can” that brought together a powerhouse of female achievers who gave talks and were part of panel discussions to a crowd of women. The founders Lynn Pinugu, Sarah Meier, and Vicky Herrera received such an overwhelming response that they decided to host She Talks Asia: She Is Self-Made.

Based on the success of their first summit, the founders set to work on how to take the conversation they started further. “From the beginning, we knew that [the summit is] not an overnight solution. Having one conference doesn’t change a mindset,” shares Herrera. “So this is not even two conferences, not even three conferences, we see years of work to do to be able to shift a mindset in our culture.”

This year, the summit began with renowned broadcaster Karen Davila giving a talk on why women need to support fellow women. There were also five panel discussions with themes ranging from Global Girl Boss and HeForShe, to The Right Speech, Body Love, and #MeToo.

Herrera says that it was important to include #MeToo in this summit. “We feel like every time something happens, or [when] things are brought to our consciousness level, we look at it as an opportunity for discussion, so that we can grow and improve our conversations, our consciousness level, and our mindset,” she says.

Photo-3.jpg She Talks Asia co-founder Lynn Pinugu, broadcaster Ces Drilon, singer-songwriter Toni Brillantes, and Coach Pia Acevedo at the #MeToo panel discussion. Photo courtesy of SHE TALKS ASIA

“I think we’re onto something in terms of elevating the discourse on women’s rights and empowerment,” adds Pinugu, who is the head of Mano Amiga here in the Philippines, a school conceptualized and spearheaded in Mexico, with international standards that provide scholarships and sustainable livelihood for low-income families.

From a one-time conference that the founders wanted to create to help facilitate discussions, as well as help with Mano Amiga’s mentorship program and increase involvement, the She Talks Asia Summit will now be a biannual conference. The idea is that the first summit every year will have a more general theme aimed to resonate with women from all walks of life and who need guidance in different aspects of their lives.

The second summit will have an overarching theme. Pinugu explains, “So this year, we started with ‘She Is Self-Made’ and the talks are more about your journey from a girl into becoming a woman who is complete on her own. But our main overarching theme this year is ‘Body Love Revolution.’ For 2019, we’ll focus on mental health.”

Photo-15.jpg Iza Calzado was joined by entrepreneur and humanitarian Chely Esguerra, beauty queen Gwendoline Ruais, activist Rona Tai, and stylist Adrianne Concepcion to discuss body positivity at the Body Love panel discussion. Photo courtesy of SHE TALKS ASIA

This year, a fourth founder was introduced: Iza Calzado. She is also known for her body positivity advocacy stemming from her own journey to discover body love. Initially, Calzado really wanted to take the Body Love Revolution to schools, where students can begin learning how to appreciate and respect their bodies at an early age. But, as Calzado candidly shares, it wasn’t so easy to get sponsors.

“It was hard to ask people for money for a school program,” she admits. “But we realized, if you [stage] a conference, there’s more interest for brands.” She’s not giving up her initial vision, though. She hopes that the conference will gain enough traction so they will get support to take the talks to schools. “It’s not going to be part of the curriculum, but with the help of Lynn, we are going to formulate a module for kids for possibly a one-day talk or workshop and take it to schools.”

In this summit, Body Love was introduced through a panel discussion that involved different women with different stories. Strikingly, one of the panelists included is Adrianne Concepcion, a celebrity stylist and a transwoman. “For the panel, we [wanted] to talk about body love and self-love. Coming to terms with your body, and the struggles of a woman — trans women included,” adds Calzado.

“It [was] also amazing to see what she [had] to say about wanting to have the body of a woman. You know ito na nga, tayo babae na diba, and we hate our bodies … [Adrienne also has] a very interesting perspective.”

Photo-60.jpg New York-based financial guru Tonya Rapley-Flash shared her experiences to give the audience tips on how to gain financial freedom. Rapley-Flash received a bevy of questions from the audience, who were eager to know how they can become independent through being financially secure. Photo courtesy of SHE TALKS ASIA

Another discussion was headed by New York-based financial guru Tonya Rapley-Flash who shared her experiences to give the audience tips on how to gain financial freedom. Rapley-Flash received a bevy of questions from the audience, who were eager to know how they can become independent through being financially secure.

“We really want to be able to translate these ideas into action,” details Pinugu. “We really just want to keep having different conversations. Our belief is the more conversations we have, the more we will build empathy.”

To do this, the founders are looking for long-term partners that will join them in this ride. This year, Avon became the co-sponsors for the two conferences. The hope is to get even more brands on board to increase the reach and awareness for She Talks Asia.

Photo-48.jpg This year, the summit aims to bring more men into discussions of women's issues. This was started with the HeForShe panel discussion, and will be reinforced throughout the year with another project launching this year called She Talks Narratives. Photo courtesy of SHE TALKS ASIA

As the discussions for women are elevated, the audience for the summit is hoped to encourage men to also be present and be part of the discussions. This was started with the HeForShe talk as part of the panel discussions, and will be reinforced throughout the year with another project launching this year called She Talks Narratives.

Pinugu says this was inspired by Justin Baldoni’s TED Talk, “Why I’m done trying to be man enough.” “One of the main focuses will be men speaking to other men about how they can one, be feminist, and two, how we can also redefine masculinity. We do strongly believe that we need to include more men in the conversation,” she explains.

She Talks Asia is growing, and the hope is that awareness for its raised discussions will grow with it.

As Pinugu describes, “We feel that [through the summit], our strength is in communicating advocacies and finding ways for it to resonate with different members of the audience.”

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For more information, visit the She Talks Asia Website. Catch She Talks Asia co-founders Iza Calzado and Lynn Pinugu and other women such as Kristie Lu Stout, Dr. Gia Sison, Hannah Pangilinan, and Rissa Mananquil-Trillo at CNN Philippines’ “Leading Women to #PressforProgress” event on Saturday, March 17, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the BDO Corporate Center, Makati.