The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) recently concluded its 61st session at UN headquarters in New York City. Anchored in the theme “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work,” UN member states collaborated to uphold the UNCSW mission as a global policy-making body dedicated to promoting gender equality and the advancement of women in the political, economic, civil, social and educational spheres of development.

As an active UN member state, the Philippine government formed an official delegation for the two-week event consisting of heads and leaders of the Philippine Commission on Women; the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and its various agencies; the Department of Social Welfare and Development; the Department of Foreign Affairs; and have invited Coca-Cola Philippines as the only private sector panelist at the UNCSW61 parallel session.

One of the recent changes in the world of work is the gradual and continuing feminization of migration to other countries for economic employment. The UNCSW parallel event session "#Here4Her: Making Reintegration Work for Filipino Women Migrant Workers,” featured the partnership of Coca-Cola Philippines and DOLE under the Women Entrepreneurs Reintegrated and Economically Active at Home (WOMEN REACH) Program. This program is a collaboration of 5by20 Sari-sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) Program initiatives of Coca-Cola Philippines and the Assist WELL (Welfare, Employment, Legal and Livelihood) centers of DOLE. Central to the program intervention is to help improve the plight of returning women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and mitigation measures to help address the impact of the feminization of migration to the women OFW and their families.

Just in time for the UNCSW event in March, the WOMEN REACH Program marked its first year of program development and implementation. Through the panel discussion, Coca-Cola and DOLE were able to share the development journey of the program and some of its accomplishments in the past 12 months. Panelists included DOLE National Reintegration Commission for OFWs (NRCO) Executive Director Chona Mantilla; Coca-Cola Philippines Sustainability and 5by20 Lead Gilda Custodio-Maquilan; DOLE Assistant Secretary Gloria Jumamil-Mercado; and moderated by Cabinet Undersecretary Gloria Tango of the office of the Office of the President of the Philippines.

The chairperson of the 61st Session of the UNCSW H.E. Mr. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota of Brazil stressed the centrality of gender equality and women and girls empowerment to sustainable development and poverty eradication. Likewise, he said that women economic empowerment (WEE) is a needed pre-requisite in order to progress in the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The UNCSW have the opportunity to place normative guidance in relation to the theme this year that is of critical importance to every UN member country, WEE plays a vital role towards achieving sustained and inclusive economic growth for all.

“The WOMEN REACH program partnership is conceptualized to help facilitate the WEE and effective reintegration of returning Filipino women overseas workers by providing them access to livelihood programs, build their entrepreneurship know-how and connect them to resources that will help them establish their own small enterprises in the country,” shared Gilda Custodio-Maquilan, Coca-Cola Philippines Sustainability and 5by20 Lead.

The STAR Program is part of the global initiative of The Coca-Cola Company to help economically empower 5 million women by the year 2020. The 5by20 global initiative is present in over 80 countries, where the Philippines is a lead market towards achieving its target program implementation. While the Assist WELL center of DOLE is an integrated resources accessing mechanism established to address the challenges faced by women OFWs returning to the country in the areas of welfare, employment, legal and livelihood needs. The combination of expertise and resources of these two programs posits a promising intervention that will help women OFWs stakeholders under the WOMEN REACH Program.

The UNCSW panel #Here4Her: Making Reintegration Work for Filipino Women Migrant Workers served as a platform for sharing and exchange of ideas and experiences both from the panel speakers and the audience in the changing world of work for women overseas workers. “The DOLE NRCO, in partnership with Coca-Cola Philippines, is fully committed to continuing the WOMEN REACH Program development and implementation to key areas for the economic empowerment of women OFWs,” as the panel ended with the note from DOLE NRCO Executive Director Chona Mantilla.