Every Girl Can: Powerhouse women share how young girls can find their life path

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Bianca Gonzalez, Pia Cayetano, Gang Badoy, Minette Navarrette, Ana P. Santos, and Karen Davila offer some sage advice for young girls

At the recent Every Girl Can conference, organized by She Talks Asia and Mano Amiga Philippines, young girls and women from different industries gathered for a day of learning and empowerment. It was a daylong enriching event, which was kicked off by a rousing panel discussion on what it means to be a "Modern Filipina." Moderating the panel was TV host and author Bianca Gonzalez.

During the panel, Senator Pia Cayetano, broadcaster Karen Davila, sex columnist Ana P. Santos, president of Kickstart ventures Minette Navarrette, and writer/educator/businesswoman Gang Badoy discussed what it truly means to be a Filipina in modern times.

When asked if they’ve ever encountered difficulties because of their gender, most of them shared that they had experienced discrimination in some form. The panelists also shared the importance of making intelligent choices at a young age.

1. Find a worthy mentor

As the mom of two daughters who are now in college, Pia Cayetano remains thankful that they're surrounded by good influences.

"My dream for every child is that they find their passion so that even when they're in school, they're gainfully involved in other activities to keep them away from temptation," she said, to which Bianca responded by saying how it's good that her two daughters have a good support system growing up. But what about those girls that don't have the same privilege?

"I think it's important that girls have...not just parents they can speak to, but your own mentor, and keep looking for them sometimes it just has to flow," responded the senator, who's championed woman-centered legislation for more than a decade.

"That person has to be grounded," she said, adding that a potential mentor should not be afraid to correct and reprimand with love. "Because the people that influence you, the voices that you hear. That's so important. That will make or break the decisions that you make for yourself. It can be totally wrong or totally right."

"It's important to be kind. In this world, it is important to help others and that does not mean you are weak. It means you are strong enough to give something of yourself to others. To be strong does not mean you have to be like a man..."

2. Know your true strength

Girls and young women would also benefit from being able to distinguish what true strength means.

Educator Gang Badoy, who founded RockEd Philippines, shared how she notices the misconception of how a woman has "to be close to anger" to be deemed strong. "I think that's a misconception. I think we're strongest when we're softest."

3. Be kind

Echoing what Gang said, Minette, who was the pioneer of one of the top telecommunications companies in the country, pointed out how girls should be taught that "kindness is not weakness."

Continuing, she elaborated, "It's important to be kind. In this world, it is important to help others and that does not mean you are weak. It means you are strong enough to give something of yourself to others. To be strong does not mean you have to be like a man. We have a different way of being strong. Find what it is about you that makes you strong and go for it. You don't have to pretend to be angry and aggressive. You can succeed by being yourself."

4. Decide for yourself

"We have come to an age where everything's been fought for. You all have it," said Karen, addressing the young girls in the venue, some as young as 10 years old. "The question is, when you're making these choices, who are you making them for?"

She quoted Hilary Clinton to caution them against the dangers of "attaching adjectives to women" as a form of disempowerment. "There's a pressure for girls to look a certain way," she said, emphasizing the importance of cultivating one's inner beauty and intelligence. "It will benefit you in the long run."

Learn more about Mano Amiga Philippines' work to empower the youth and women here.

Next page: Finding your identity and life path, according to Bianca G

After the panel discussion, we caught up with Bianca Gonzalez and asked her what she thought of the topic: What is a modern Filipina?

"For me ang odd din ng term na Modern Filipina," she began. "Kasi every new generation, iba iba na rin yung definition and yung situation in society that people grow up in."

"It’s tough to define kasi it always changes, but tama yung the way they phrased it kanina siguro what it means is what a Filipina is today---the Filipina in modern times—definitely for me that’s someone na, dahil nga we have the freedom, 'di na katulad ng dati na parang second class ang mga babae medyo kahit papano equal na ngayon. So, for me, a Filipina now is someone who will go for what she wants talaga," she explained, adding that Filipino women these days aren't boxed into typical life paths.

"There are so many possibilities to be anything and everything and with all the resources available to us especially in the internet and social media," she emphasized, adding how everything is practically at our fingertips.

"I mean ang dali dali, ako I’m thankful that I reached the time na, to research for school, kailangan ko pa pumunta ng library. That taught the value of working harder than just a few clicks," she added. "For me, there’s no excuse to not make something of yourself---whatever it is. Kasi nga everything’s at our disposal."

Finding your identity and life path, according to Bianca G.

1. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Though "it's easier said than done." Bianca encourages young girls not to allow themselves to feel any sort of pressure. For instance, from what they see on social media about those their age who seem more successful.

"Tayo kasi feeling natin dapat, at a certain age ganito na tayo, but everyone has his or her own pace," she said. "So don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you know na ginagawa mo naman lahat to try and figure things out, that’s more than enough."

2. Try as many things as you can

Bianca shared how some kids are just "lucky" to know for sure what they want to be when they grow up.

"But for those still looking, I encourage them to try as much as they can," she said, adding how exploring all your interests will help you see "what you love most. Kasi from there you’ll see what you make the most time for. Alin yung mas na-eenjoy mo, which one does not feel like work. Doon mo ma-thi-thin out kung ano talaga yung gusto mong gawin if you’ve tried a lot of things."

3. Remember: It’s not always about you

"I feel like this is an important reminder: it's not always about you. Sometimes, because of what we go through our challenges or accomplishments, feeling natin 'yes, we’re the sh*t!'" said Bianca. Conversely, she shares, our failures can make us feel sorry for ourselves. This shouldn't be the case. Removing focus from yourself will give you a better perspective. It will also ground you enough to seek and accept help.

"Look to people around you kasi di man halata, meron din silang mga pinagdadaanan, hindi mo lang alam. Talk to them because you’ll learn from them, you’ll draw strength from them," she urged. "So yun, whenever you feel like things are getting a bit much or you’re just thinking about yourself, sometimes it helps na buksan mo yung mundo mo dun sa ibang tao kasi may mabibigay sila sayo na help."

READ: Bianca Gonzalez Intal on her first year of motherhood: “Ang dami kong fears”

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Written by

Bianchi Mendoza