GIRL POWER – Binibining Pilipinas 2014 candidates show off women’s rights signs with Mr. Brian Poe, Head of the Research Team—Office of Senator Grace Poe- Llamanzares

The 40 candidates of the Binibining Pilipinas celebrated International Women’s Day last March 8 at the Gateway Cinema 5 in a film showing of documentary Girl Rising sponsored by SPARK Philippines Inc (Samahan ng Mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran), J. Amado Araneta Foundation, and the Araneta Center.

The movie featured the inspiring stories of nine girls all over the world who were born into unforgiving circumstances but overcame adversity. The event also hosted thought-provoking talks on women empowerment from Ms. Czarina Medina-Guce, Executive Director, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines; Mr. Brian Poe- Llamanzares, Head of the Research Team—Office of Senator Grace Poe- Llamanzares; Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, Founder, Teach Peace Build Peace Movement; and Zorayda Amelia Alonzo, SPARK Philippines Inc. President.

As representatives of the Philippines to the most prestigious pageants worldwide, the Binibinis embody Filipinas’ strength and character and are champions of women empowerment. In an interview, the girls share their thoughts on women’s rights, gender equality and International Women’s Day.

What can women do for society?
“Women can do a lot of things in society, and we are privileged to be living in an age where we can enjoy freedom to pursue things we want to do and achieve. For me, as a Binibini, I can inspire women to become better versions of themselves and we advocate women to be empowered Filipinas.”—Binibini No. 31 Angelique Celine De Leon

What are the biggest issues for women that we should address?
“I read somewhere that the Philippines is a hotbed for human trafficking, and women are the most susceptible to this. There are women who are being exploited and violated and they were not given the choice to say no. So I think we should promote projects to push awareness on human trafficking.”—Binibini No. 5 Hanna Mariz dela Guerra

What are your realizations this Women’s month?
“This day made me realize the importance of gender equality—that women deserve to be treated equally with men and that women are able and capable of reaching their dreams. As a girl who underwent struggles in my life, I keep these thoughts in mind to fuel me to achieve my goals.”—Binibini No. 36 Krystal Alonday

Who are the women you look up to?
“I work with Noraida Abdullah Karim in CFSI (Community and Family Services International) and she is someone I look up to. She is a multi-awarded social worker who specializes in psychosocial care, and she has helped counsel countless women and children who underwent traumatic experiences in war-torn Mindanao. I admire her because of her passion for the advocacy.”—Binibini No. 22 Mary Anne Bianca G. Guidotti

What can you say about gender equality in the Philippines?
“We are blessed that the Philippines is ranked number 5 in the world for gender equality based on a survey. But at the same time, there are still problems that need to be addressed like abuse in women. But it’s a good thing that we have programs that cater to the abused and empower women.”—Binibini No. 3 Joanna Angelica Romero

If you were to win Bb Pilipinas, what advocacy would you have for women?
“I want to have an organization that would foster and support sexually abused teenagers. Like a big sister-little sister project that would help the victims. Because of my exposure to so many news stories on rape and abuse, it became something I feel strongly about.”—Binibini No. 28 Carla Jenina Lizardo

As a beauty queen, how would you help promote women’s rights?
“I would advocate gender equality. Everyone should be treated with mutual respect. Your race, your religion, your culture, or where you’re from—these things shouldn’t matter. Women should have the freedom to achieve anything they want in life.”—Binibini No. 4 Parul Shah

What can you say about the women’s day festivities in the Philippines?
“I am happy that there is a day for women to be recognized and it’s also an important day for us to be aware of women’s issues. I think awareness is key to solve a lot of social issues women are facing.”—Binibini No. 1 Julian Aurine Flores

Candidate no. 4 Parul Shah shows off her support for education for women at the Women’s Day celebration of Spark Philippines Inc., J. Amado Araneta Foundation, and Araneta Center

Joanna Angelica Romero, Mary Ainjely Manalo and Julian Aurine Flores stand up for women’s rights and display empowerment signs at the recently concluded Women’s Day Celebration at the Araneta Center