Madeleine Albright once said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” She’s been quoted countless times since she said it in 1995 (most popularly by Taylor Swift, who used it to clap back at Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), but usually in the context of social issues.
What we don’t normally think about is how this can apply in an economic context too. Culture, sustainability, and gender rights advocate Jeannie Javelosa believes that helping other women is the way to go if we want them to be economically empowered. There are many issues to cover when it comes to helping the country, but focusing on the economic aspect is one way to tackle everything from the bottom up.
These plush toys are made using fabric weaved by Yakan women from Zamboanga del Sur.
Jeannie stresses that it also makes good business sense to put women in charge of money. “International data has seen that the more money you have in the hands of women, the next generation’s lives become better because the women put their money back 100 percent for health, food, education, and children,” she says.
One way to start is by bringing women from different sectors together to collaborate and develop their products. Together with her partner Carlota Tan, Jeannie does just that by running Great Women, a gender social enterprise platform that brings together development programs in a commercial brand. The name Great Women stands for Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women.
To set everything to action, they formed the Great Women Collective, which is a community of female producers, designers, product developers, and manufacturers who are partnered with other cooperatives. Great Women matches experienced women who want to share their craft and skills to groups who are willing to learn. The platform also matches already skilled groups (like indigenous tribes) with partners who expand their reach in the market. “So it’s a women helping women thing. It’s a mentoring, it’s a business partnership,” says Jeannie.
Great Women also has an advocacy collection that includes candles, bags, and notebooks advocating for women empowerment.
The results of these partnerships are artisanal, fair trade products ranging from clothes and accessories to home décor. These include lingerie traditionally dyed by the Bagobo from Mt. Apo, bracelets beaded by the Subanen tribe, plush toys woven by the Ifugao, and bags and pouches crocheted by women from GK communities in Manila. All the products can be found in the Great Women showroom in Makati, which is a chic space that serves as the brand’s footprint in the retail world. Aside from housing their products, the showroom also has a café that serves artisanal sandwiches and desserts.
Aside from taking steps to actively create a community, Jeannie also hopes that the Great Women platform and brand instills the mindset and consciousness to pick products that help. “It allows the women to understand this perspective by (showing you) that ‘I can also be a great woman,’” she says. “Why? I must have a heart to other women also.”
The showroom is a chic space that showcases their products, like these crocheted dolls made by mothers from Payatas and Cagayan de Oro.
The Great Women showroom is located at G/F Street Front, Tesoro’s Building, A. Arnaiz Street, Makati. For more information, visit their website.