Filipino volunteers Nanilita Alburo and Jennifer Silleza took part in the 2014 annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). On March 14, they shared their stories of transformation through video conference. Two other women volunteers from Haiti were personally present at the convention to share their life story as women of change.
Highlighting the power of women to make an impact to society, women volunteers of Tzu Chi Foundation from the Philippines took part in the 2014 annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on March 14.
Nanilita Alburo and Jennifer Silleza shared their stories of positive transformation together with two other Tzu Chi volunteers from Haiti.
This convention is paralleled to the celebration of international women’s month and the CSW, a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), gathered more than 6,000 registered representatives of the 193 MemberStates, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world. Held at the UN Headquarters in New York, the activity aims to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.
As an ECOSOC-accredited NGO, Tzu Chi Foundation hosted an event themed, “The Light of Hope: Women as role models in rural communities.” It invited volunteers from Haiti and the Philippines, countries in which Tzu Chi has been providing aid for many years.
Mireille and Emeline are Haitian natives who became Tzu Chi volunteers in the aftermath of the earthquake in 2010 while Alburo and Silleza turned their life around after typhoon Ondoy in 2009. All of them have been touched by Tzu Chi Foundation.
Although Alburo and Silleza are not able to go to New York for the actual convention, Tzu Chi’s branch in the United States channelled their sharing straight from the Philippines to the audience through skype video conference, a live video and audio transmissions. This part of the session is held 4:30pm of March 13 in New York’s time, 5am here.
“I have proven my worth as a valuable person in our society,” Silleza says. “I initially doubted what I can contribute but when I became a Tzu Chi volunteer, I realized that my strength as a woman comes from my heart. This keeps me going,” she adds.
Before typhoon Ondoy, Silleza used to squander her time on gambling to the extent of neglecting her responsibilities as a wife and mother. Not long after joining the volunteer seminars of Tzu Chi Foundation, Jennifer realized her wrongdoings and started to change her way of life. As a Tzu Chi volunteer, she is now using her time wisely through serving in times of disaster, and leading other volunteers in carrying out the mission to help the needy.
“In Tzu Chi Foundation, everyone is equal—there are no labels between men and women, rich or poor. Everyone is given the chance to help,” she adds.
Nanilita, on the other hand, was once an influential supporter of local politicians during electoral campaigns. Due to her strong attachments to her political beliefs, she was often at odds with neighbors and friends.
She says that her new life as a Tzu Chi volunteer for four years brought her peace of mind and healthy family life. Her sons and her husband, who is a former drunkard, also do volunteer works for the foundation.
“I am happy to walk on the path of volunteerism and help others following the teachings of Master Cheng Yen,” she says. Master Cheng Yen, a Buddhist nun, is the founder of Tzu Chi Foundation.
These two Filipino volunteers both worked extensively with Tzu Chi in post-Haiyan disaster relief since November last year. They played key roles in the cash-for-work program, motivating survivors to clean their own communities.
Tzu Chi Philippines’ chief executive officer expressed his pride for Nanilita, Jennifer and the rest of the Filipino volunteers “who serve as the back bone of Tzu Chi’s charity works in the country”.
“Whenever there is a disaster, they are the first to be there. They are not afraid of hardships. Through the video conference, their stories are being told around the world. We hope that their stories will inspire and empower other women,” he says.
The annual convention opened on March 10 and will last until the 21st. It is the fifth year of Tzu Chi’s participation since it gained a special consultative status in the United Nation’s ECOSOC in 2010.