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When 26-year-old social entrepreneur Ana Patricia “Patreng” Non transformed a humble kariton (bamboo cart) of basic goods for people in need into a social phenomenon known as the “community pantry,” there were two things that struck her.

“The community pantries prove that we’re capable of creating something good out of challenging situations. Imagine: people are starving, they lost their jobs, they’re scared of going out because of the virus, but everyone still decided to show up and contribute to the pantry or even make their own versions in their own communities. Kaya pala natin,” she marvels.

Another is the fact that the community pantries were run mostly by women — those who have full-time office jobs, run sari-sari stores, or mothers. “It’s hard to be a woman. We’re victims of microaggression, violence, and double standards. And with the community pantries, we also started facing ‘red-tagging’. But we brave all these and more, simply because we’re capable and we’re determined to take care of our communities,” says Patreng, the first InLife Young Shero of the Year Grand Winner at the 2021 Asia CEO Awards.

The power to overcome the odds and spark collective action, especially in these trying times, is what transforms women like Patreng into “sheroes.” And this transformation is what the InLife Sheroes Advocacy and Movement is all about.

7.6 Million Strong

In 2019 when InLife launched the program in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, it set out a seemingly ambitious target of empowering one million Filipino in three years.

From its inception in 2019 until 2021, amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic, InLife Sheroes has reached more than 7.6 million Filipino women, 765% higher than its 3-year goal. This was done through various on-ground and online activities and partnerships with like-minded organizations.

On its third anniversary, InLife Sheroes Advocacy and Movement stayed true to its mission of empowering Filipino women through its four pillars: financial education, health and wellness, women-specific solutions, and access to social and business networks. In 2021, it conducted financial literacy and gender sensitivity training sessions; partnered with various organizations that cater to women for health and wellness campaigns, as well as solutions for women-specific needs; and held mentoring sessions with outstanding women in their respective fields.

The movement also provided women entrepreneurs an avenue to expand their market through the Digital Bazaar, in partnership with the UnionBank of the Philippines Global Linker. InLife Sheroes Advocacy and Movement also launched #InAko, a campaign that challenges Filipino women to take the next step towards becoming a Shero by learning from their financial mistakes and using these to take charge of their lives towards financial empowerment for their future, goals, family, and the nation.

Bridging the Gap

In addition to these initiatives, InLife Sheroes Advocacy and Movement also offered solutions to women’s insurance needs. In the Sheroes Landmark Study on Women, it found that six in ten Filipino women are entrusted with their household’s budget but only 21% are able to include savings in their budget. Those who save are only able to allocate 3% of their budget to savings. And while life insurance awareness is 30%, only 4% of those surveyed own a policy. InLife Sheroes Advocacy and Movement continues to fill the gap by selling more life insurance policies specific to women.

In 2021, InLife and health maintenance organization subsidiary Insular Health Care sold more than 73,000 policies to women. This earned Php3.5 billion in first-year premiums, 91% more than in 2020 and 47% higher in terms of policy count. Women also accounted for 61% of InLife’s total policies issued.

Sparking a Revolution

As it enters its fourth year, InLife Sheroes Advocacy and Movement will continue to forge more partnerships with organizations that promote women empowerment, gender equality and inclusivity, and financial independence.

To inspire more women to join the program, InLife Sheroes Advocacy and Movement is tapping women achievers and young Filipino women like Patreng Non to provide inspiration or render mentoring sessions so other Filipino women could learn from their experience and expertise.

Patricia Non
Maginhawa Community Pantry

Patreng was named the Young Shero of the Year Grand Winner for awakening the innate spirit of Filipinos for bayanihan through her community pantry. Through simple acts of kindness, her example spread like wildfire across the country and inspired other countries to put up the same community pantries to alleviate the suffering of the hungry and the vulnerable poor during the pandemic.

Malou Perez
Pawssion Project

Kindness knows no bounds. A self-confessed dog lover, Malou Perez, set out to rescue canines from death in Bacolod’s crowded pound three years ago. Today, her “Pawssion Project” has rehomed 500 dogs and cats and another 500 waiting for adoption. She believes there is much work to be done as at least 13 million stray dogs and cats in the country are still languishing in the kennels.

Anya Lim
Anthill Fabric Gallery

Anya’s love for indigenous tapestry brought local weaving to the world stage. She set up Anthill Fabric Gallery, a social and cultural enterprise, in 2011 to support the local weaving industry through sustainable livelihood among indigenous weavers. Anya believes that the Filipino craft and indigenous art of weaving deserve the world stage.

Charlene Tan
All Vision Solar

Charlene put up one of the country’s first solar energy operations and broke the glass ceiling in the renewable energy space. Fresh out of graduate school in 2007, she envisioned the Philippines as a hub for solar energy, and set up All Vision Solar. To date, the company has installed 106 megawatts of solar energy and aims to add 150 MW in rooftop systems within the next five years.

Maureen Ledesma

Maureen Ledesma, while educated in Belgium, opted to apply the lessons she learned in graduate school to the local scene. Vesl, a company she co-founded, provides financing support to small and medium enterprises through trade credit insurance (TCI), a concept she learned in Europe. Maureen hopes to raise awareness on TCI as a kind of insurance where a seller is compensated when a buyer fails to pay for his or her order.

Therese Clarence Ruiz

Reese is a known social entrepreneur who leads eco-ethical fashion brand RagstoRiches. What makes her operation unique and pro-poor is that her artisans come from poor communities, such as Payatas, a village beside a dumpsite in Quezon City. Her mission in life is to provide opportunities for the urban poor households through design. Through her organization, she has trained more than a thousand artisans, mostly women, to make fashionable bags, clothes, and home accessories out of recycled materials.

Therese Guiao

A lawyer by profession, Therese or Niner, founded Parabukas after two serendipitous events: a three-month internship in Switzerland that focused on climate change and Typhoon Ondoy in the Philippines in 2009. The massive destruction from the typhoon prompted her to focus on environmental advocacy and help craft government policies to reduce emissions and forest degradation. She also designed the 2015 global climate change agreement, a consultation process with the world’s top climate experts.

Niña Opida
Humble Sustainability

Guided by the principle of decluttering, Niña formed Humble Sustainability where she and her team collect things people no longer need to give them a fresh lease on life and possible new owners. Through the project, she declutters homes and businesses and puts the items back to the market for others to enjoy.

Karen Jane Salutan
Pinoy Indie Films Roadshow

The lack of opportunity to showcase Filipino talent and artistry prompted Karen to put up the Pinoy Indie Films Roadshow. Bringing films to the masses — to the barangays, schools, and even to gymnasiums — created such a big impact for the artists, the industry, and people. The films tackle themes of empowerment, education, and women — Filipino values that uplift the spirit.

Ray Alyannah Ysabel Lagasca
Youth For Mental Health

Mental health advocate Ray Alyannah dreams of a world where everyone can seek help without getting a stigma. She works with like-minded individuals to seek for the government’s active role in mental health through policy interventions, education, and awareness. She helps craft policies about mental health that is cognizant of various cultural perspectives for a holistic approach in dealing with mental health.

Jenica Dizon
Waves for Water Philippines

In an archipelago such as ours, water is everywhere. Despite this, not all have access to a clean source. And this is where Jenica comes in through the non-profit Waves for Water where she brings potable water to far-flung areas. Where commercial water lines cannot reach, Jenica serves.