BABAYLAN DENMARK FOUNDER AMONG 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL GLOBAL FILIPINA LEADERS
When Filipinas in Diaspora gather in the Philippine’s Wall Street equivalent of Makati in MetroManila to honour the 100 most influential women leaders in the Philippine diaspora, anno 2014, Danish-Filipina FILOMENITA HOEGSHOLM, nee MONGAYA (of Surigao City in Mindanao) will be amongst these select few from the more than 10 million Filipinos abroad.
It is no secret that ca. 45 million Filipinas -slightly more than half of the 90 million population of this 7000 island archipelago, the first democratic republic in all of Asia- throw their weight around when it comes to leadership and gender empowerment. Currently, Filipino women rank nr.5 on the global list when it comes to closing the gender gap according to the annual survey of the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland), a fact that rankles in the Nordic countries which used to fill out the top 5 posts. This year, only the 4 top posts go to the Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Philippines has grabbed the 5th place ousting Denmark which is now only the world’s 8th placer. The Philippines has continuously been the only Asian country in the top ten
Ms. Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm was a freelancing journalist covering the migration beat when the Editor of the magazine she wrote for at that time, SAMSPIL, urged her to contribute to a Nordic publication on migrant women. She heeded the challenge and wrote about the situation of Filipinas in Denmark. Pretty soon, she was involved actively in respresenting the views of her kababayans at the biggest gathering of Nordic women, the Nordic Forum held for the first time in Oslo in 1988, and in Turku, Finland in 1994. By 1992, she was one of those who turned up in Barcelona for the first meeting of Filipinas in Europe. That September the Philippine women’s network, BABAYLAN was founded by the more than 60 Filipina delegates from all over Europe. Filomenita presented a paper on Danish Filipinas. Active as a migrant woman organizer, she has led and coordinated participation of Danish migrant women, aside from Filipinas, at such milestones as the UN conferences in Cairo(’94, population),Copenhagen(social summit)& Beijing (women) in ’95.
”Nitnit” (to Filipino friends) has since been a capacity to reckon with in cross-cultural initiatives where she untiringly showcases Philippine culture be it in music, dance, fashion,the arts, and women dialogues (Dialogues in Dignity series). She has been elected to top posts at minority women and other organizations, eg. As Chairperson of BWEN (Black Women and Europe Network, 1996) after two terms as Vice-President (1992-1996) of this first ever inter-ethnic migrant women organization in the EU(European Union). She later began her initiative of mainstreaming migrant women empowerment by seeking entry to feminist organizations in Europe. First, she was elected to the Danish international women and development network KULU. And thru this, she later got elected to the 5-women Executive Board of WIDE, the most influential women empowerment in Europe. She stayed until WIDE’s devolution in 2011 and became part of the Task Force that rebirthed the new WIDE Plus in 2012.
Filomenita’s efforts to empower minority women were recognized early on when she garnered the Grassroots Foundation Prize in 1994 in Denmark for the contribution to women’s integration of SOLDUE Magazine which she was Editor in chief for from 1992 to 1997. From the 1990s onwards, Filomenita produced radio shows, video documentaries on various topics mainly focused on the situation of minorities such as her fellow Filipinos aside from covering the area with reportages for local and international media. She also edited an English language magazine on Kurdish human rights. She produced a video documentary on the plight of over a hundred stateless Palestinians who occupied a Danish church in the inner city of Noerrebro which made the headlines because of its length -more than 300 days- and of the support the asylumseekers got from the local people. The result: a permit to stay for all granted by the Folketing (Danish Parliament). Today, the opposite happens for asylum seekers who choose this way: they are removed by force by the police. Everywhere in Europe, asylum seekers are turned away.
In May 1997, she founded BABAYLAN Denmark together with some stalwart Pinays in the Copenhagen area. In 2000, just as the second people power was about to install another woman President (Gloria Macapagal) she started ABAKADA, the migration, gender and development magazine that is appreciated across borders and even continents. Since the start, Babaylan DK and Abakada have been at the forefront of empowering Filipinas not only in Denmark but globally.
The coming of Filipina au pairs in numbers to the Nordic countries has challenged the organization which has responded by offering a plethora of activities:information, capacity building, counselling, socials and sports and more inspite of Zero funding from the authorities who benefit from this state of things. In March 2013, Babaylan’s Founding Chair signed a MOA with CFO’s Exec.Director, Sec. Mely Nicolas in Manila to ensure that au pairs’ concerns are monitored and attended to.
As mentioned previously, her scope of concerns involves the world’s refugees, some of whom she mentored as Editor-in-chief of NEW TIMES,the publication in the Danish Red Cross that served as platform for refugees to mirror their situation and voice their grievances globally. Today among her Red Cross mentees is now Chargès des Affaires/Head of Mission for an Arab state that has been thru a partial Arab spring. She has also actively showcased,thru monitoring the elections in Salalah (2003) and in Muscat(2006), the progress of the women of the Sultanate of Oman, who were the first women to exercise suffrage in the Arabian Gulf. She has written- and continues to do so – on many Middle Eastern women personalities that have had their footprints in history.
Her knowledge on global migration and her networking skills galvanized her impact so she has been invited to speak at some international meetings like the Global Congress against Violence (Dublin, 1997), CAPWIP’s Women and Politics(Manila, 1998) and the Philippine Centennial’s Women and Nationbuilding (Manila, 1998). In the new Millennium, she has been one of the founding leaders of such women networks as EMWC (Ethnic Minority Women Council) in Denmark, ENoMW(European Network of Minority Women) in the EU and continues to be a capacity consulted during roundtables, workshops, eg. CEDAW (UN Conv.ention on Women’s Rights, Geneva 2008, PACE(Council of Europe, Paris 2009). She collated and edited for PSSC(Phil.Social Science Council) the 412-pp compendium ”In de Olde Worlde: Views of Filipino Migrants in Europe” with support from UNESCO which allows its download off http://www.unesco.org.
It has been launched in Manila, Amsterdam, London, Reykjavik, Wash.DC.
In 2012, Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm received the ROSA (Rotary Outstanding Surigaonon Awardee) for Migrant Women Advocacy, given for the first time in the history of the organization, in her native Surigao City where she graduated Valedictorian from Surigao City High School, 1962. When she attended the 100th year of the SCNHSS in 2003, she won and was crowned Centennial Queen and has of course been an Outstanding Alumna.
During Oct.5 to 8, the San Francisco-based FWN, Filipina Women’s Network, is recognizing her leadership capabilities as one of the 100 Global Pinays for Influential Leadership during its 11th Leadership Summit to be held for the first time in the Philippines, at the Makati Shangrila, the Gala night to be held on October 7th. FWN is recognizing her efforts as a BUILDER, owing to her efforts to consolidate and rebuild and repair women organizations and networks.
*** This was first published in Babaylan Website http://www.babaylan.dk/wp/index.php/babaylan-denmark-founder-among-100-most-influential-global-filipina-leaders/