2nd International Conference on Women’s Empowerment and Leadership in Agriculture, held in Naga City, Philippines.

Recently, I had the honour of serving as a guest speaker at the 2nd International Conference on Women’s Empowerment and Leadership in Agriculture, held in Naga City, Philippines. This two-day event brought together a diverse array of speakers, including trailblazers in agriculture and advocates for women’s empowerment in the field. Through panel discussions, workshops, and lively debates, participants explored avenues for driving positive change. My own presentation centred on the crucial intersection of food security and leadership, highlighting the importance of achieving gender balance within the poultry industry and the broader agricultural sector. I firmly believe that by expanding the workforce in our industry, we can enhance food security while gaining fresh perspectives to propel our field forward.

Among the standout presentations was one by Bernadette De Los Santos, affectionately known as “BidiBidi.” A multifaceted individual, she seamlessly blends roles as an artist, designer, farmer, environmental advocate, and social entrepreneur. Embracing sustainability, she crafts products using upcycled materials, each imbued with the narrative of women striving to improve their families’ lives. Bernadette’s mission extends to empowering out-of-school youth and women, particularly farmers’ wives, in her community, providing them with sustainable livelihoods. The women crafting the bags and other household materials do so from the comfort of their homes, working at their own pace. They are provided with all necessary resources to bring their designs to life. She also aims to preserve the skill of hand embroidery, of which Baao, Camarines Sur, was known for in the 70’s. She designs the bags but the women decide which colours will bring the caras (faces) to life. Her passion and exuberance was inspiring and certainly left me with a feeling of you can do it if you put your mind to it!

The conference was organized by the Meryl Williams Fellows, a prestigious fellowship program supporting female agricultural researchers across the Indo-Pacific region. This initiative, generously funded by ACIAR and administered by Gender Equity in Agriculture Research and Development (GEAReD) in partnership with the University of New England, Australia, and Coffey International, aims to bolster food systems’ resilience by empowering women in agricultural science. Through access to resources, networking opportunities, career support, and advocacy for gender equity, the fellowship catalyses institutional progress. Since 2020, forty-two women from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Nepal, Myanmar, Mongolia, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands have been selected for this transformative program.

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