Young women need role models to look up to—but they also need mates they can relate to.
When asked to think about role models, whom do you see?
Chances are you picture someone thriving in their career, a trailblazer in their field or someone whose life’s work has made an indelible contribution to the community. These are people you look up to.
But often, we also look for role models we can relate to. They are people who have similar limitations, challenges, and aspirations as ours—our mates.
Riding on the power of mates as role models, Investing in Women (IW), an initiative of the Australian Government that promotes women’s economic empowerment in South East Asia, supported a group of young Filipinas in male-dominated fields to inspire women of their age.
The Future of Young Pinays Campaign, led by IW’s partner Edukasyon.ph, sought to create greater awareness among Filipino youth of the broad range of economic opportunities before them—including those that society has labelled as careers better suited to men.
Edukasyon developed a group of 10 youth ambassadors who had conversations with almost 23,000 students in urban centres in the country through campus roadshows and education fairs, and reached more than 700,000 social media users with their inspiring stories.
One of the youth ambassadors is Audrey Pe, who at 16 years old founded Youth for Women in Technology (WiTech), a student-led organisation that inspires, educates and empowers the youth to break gender barriers and use technology to make a difference in society.
“The gender gap in tech stems from the fact that a lot of the role models or successful people right now are men,” Audrey said. She started WiTech as a blog in response to that observation. She profiled role models who can inspire girls who, like her, want to pursue careers in tech.
Another youth ambassador is Chuks Arias, who is pursuing her master’s degree in women and development studies. Her first speaking engagement with the Australia-supported campaign was at her old school in Laguna, where she organised the event herself with her school’s principal.
“I expected it would be a hard sell,” Chuks recalled. “The principal asked me about the campaign, why education and gender equality should be discussed, and why I am doing what I do. To my surprise, she asked me to conduct a gender sensitivity talk for 200 college students,” she added.
Isabel Monasterio, who managed the campaign for Edukasyon.ph, said that by making the Future of Young Pinays Campaign a “for-girls, by-girls campaign,” they had hoped to create a safe space for young Filipinas to talk about “so many dreams, laced with insecurities and hurdles.”
The campaign did just that. Chuks, for example, remembered an event in Muntinlupa City where she talked to around 400 students. “I encouraged the kids to approach me if they had any further questions. At least six did. And more young women did in the events that followed,” she said.
“We’d like to think that we’re not only helping women of our age, but the youth ambassadors as well, by providing them another platform to promote their advocacies,” Isabel said. “Through this project, they can reach out and inspire more young women and girls,” she added.
The Future of Young Pinays Campaign approach of peers supporting peers is no different from the way Australia and the Philippines are working together toward gender equality. Both countries face challenges in increasing women’s economic participation and are learning from each other’s experience.