Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, Hjayceelyn ‘Joy’ Quintana, celebrated International Women’s Month on March 19 as one of the special guests in a virtual forum attended by  empowered female entrepreneurs, professionals and community leaders based in the UAE.

She said in her Opening Remarks at the 7th FEME Forum that while the Philippines has achieved great strides on issues of gender equality and woman empowerment, the pandemic has added another layer of difficulties at home, in the schooling of children, joblessness, and even violence against women.

She commended the convenors of the forum and called on the women participants to commit to a higher level of involvement in policy and decision-making. “Let our practical instincts, caring attitude, and profound insights as women influence the way society employ quick, decisive, and effective action in facing the new and ever-changing circumstances we live in,” said the ambassador.

Vice President Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo sent a recorded video message empowering the women participants to assert their leadership roles in society. The forum’s theme adopted the 2021 International Women’s Day theme ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.

The Vice President said: “When we are called to take leadership roles in society we must respond. The kind of leaders we need today are those with deep roots.” She mentioned moral uprightness, honesty, integrity and transparency as necessary characters.

Ambassador Quintana answered questions from the participants and shared her insights and experiences as a woman Ambassador, specially during this period of the pandemic. She highlighted the need to have a clear understanding of one’s role and the importance of having a clear perspective and the right context in addressing problems and dealing with issues.

Most of the participants were members of the Philippine Business Council in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Bayanihan Council in Abu Dhabi, the Filipino Social Club in Dubai,  and the UAE Alumni chapter of the Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship program and CFC Community. Labor Attache Atty. Felicitas Bay of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai and Commercial Attaché Charmaine Mignon Yalong of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC)-Dubai, attended, too.

“It was nice to hear an empowering message from Madam VP Leni Robredo and an inspiring interaction from Madam Ambassador Hjaceelyn ‘Joy’ Quintana with our wonderful talented women in the Filipino community,” commented Kristine Angus, a Corporate Services Manager of a recruitment firm in Dubai. “I hope we choose to challenge ourselves, especially our women Kababayans, from inequalities, stereotypes and non-inclusive behaviors, and commit to driving a positive change.”

The forum’s moderator, Cristina Calaguian, Managing Director of DAGAZ HR and Consultancy, added: “It doesn’t matter how or why anyone, man or woman, comes into a position of responsibility. All that matters is how and what you deliver. The Vice President’s messages were clear and positive and she needs to be given every opportunity and support to deliver.”

Agnes Pedrosa Marelid, Abu Dhabi-based professional and Chairwoman Emeritus of Philippine Business Council-Abu Dhabi further said: “I agree with VP Leni’s perspective on women and leadership. Women can lead, no doubt about that, but for me the remaining challenge is not on women anymore but for men to accept the fact that women are equally capable and should be provided the level playing field that they are deserving of. The pandemic has led to more job losses among women, we can only hope that when this pandemic is over and the economy slowly recovers, there should be a broader understanding on women’s importance in the workforce and the homefront and that men who have families should start sharing the load on childcare so that women can easily get back to work or look for work.” 

FEME stands for Filipino Excellence in the Middle East. FEME is an advocacy movement PR expert Art Los Banos and his wife, broadcast journalist Rachel Salinel, initiated in October 2010 when they co-hosted a fortnightly talk show on Dubai Eye 103.8 FM where they invited guests from different social and economic classes to share their inspirational stories on their struggles and triumphs. Ambassador Grace Princesa and then Consul General Frank Cimafranca, guested, too, on separate episodes. The show lasted in February 2013.

In 2016, they published a free directory of Filipino professionals, entrepreneurs and talents called FEME Connect in partnership with DAGAZ HR and Consultancy. In October of the same year, they launched the first FEME Forum, which was a by-invitation only gathering wherein business promotion and current issues affecting Filipino entrepreneurs, professionals and socio-civic leaders were discussed by subject-matter experts.

The last physical event was held on March 7, 2020 in Dubai which highlighted women’s issues in celebration of International Women’s Day.

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