In an effort to widen its international engagement, the Miriam College–International Studies (MCIS) Department co-organized a public forum with Griffith University in Australia, entitled, Australia-Philippines: Lifting ambition for partnership in the Indo-Pacific on 07 February 2023, held at the ESI Building, Miriam College. The event was supported by the Australian Embassy in Manila and spearheaded by the students of the International Relations and Global Cooperation class (BAIS110) under Prof. Jona Villasante and Prof. Keb Licayan.
Professor Caitlyn Byrne, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business) of Griffith University, was the resource speaker during the event. She is one of the leading academic practitioners in Australia focused on international and diplomatic practice. She is committed to a more sustainable and inclusive global community through the delivery of contemporary business education and scholarships.
Former ambassador Laura Quiambao-Del Rosario, President of Miriam College, opened the event with a storytelling session on the relationship between Australia and the Philippines. She highlighted the history and the evolution of regional peace, development, and security in the Indo-Pacific over the years.
Prof. Byrne discussed women and leadership and what Australia and the Philippines might do together to empower women in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. She emphasized how women's empowerment and leadership should be global, regional, and local issues. The speaker emphasized that there is a need for new contributions to achieving progress in enhancing the status of women in leadership in international affairs.
Four voices of women were echoed within Prof. Byrne’s talk. First is Cynthia Enloe's “Where are the women?” where she noted that this calls for us to consciously think about how gender is employed and how we support and engage in the hierarchies and structure of power. She further argued that of all of the leaders of the UN or World Bank, there were no women leaders. Through UN data and statistics, Prof. Byrne affirms that the field of international affairs continues to move backward. The alarming data on the status of women leaders shows how women are still lacking in the seats of power. With this, she conveys the importance of targeted policy interventions, balanced power sharing, and positive peace.
Second is Hillary Clinton and her observation that “women’s rights are human rights,” emphasizing that it matters for all of us. Dr. Byrne acknowledges that women and children are the most prone to abuse and the need to think differently about violence. She stressed the responsibility of states to think about violence against women and to take action on that. Moreover, she also encourages both women and men in conversations about change. Underpinned by dialogues, “those who have a voice must speak for those who don't have.”
Third is Malala Yousafza, who advocates for rejecting prejudice and ensuring freedom and equality for women. “We can't move forward if women are held back,” noting that women are excluded from the political process and that women do not have access to phones and data.
Fourth is Kamala Harris, who was the first woman of color to become the Vice-President of the United States and knows what it is like to face discrimination and forge bonds of leadership, especially within the democratic system. Moreover, she reminds the students not to forget the privilege of being exactly where they are.
Prof. Byrne ended her speech with a call to action for the audience. Re-emphasizing the importance of asking “where are the women?” to remember women’s rights are human rights and that we all cannot succeed when women are held back. Most importantly, she reminds them to take up space and use their voice to speak for women's empowerment and gender equality.
The session was formally ended with the closing remarks by Christopher Lim, the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner of the Australian Embassy in Manila, where he highlighted the importance of strategic partnerships and the collective strength of national powers and influence working together.
The forum was followed by a networking lunch between the officials of Miriam College and guests from Griffith University and the Australian Embassy in Manila. It was hosted by Amb. Del Rosario. During the lunch, the parties discussed possible collaboration between MCIS and Griffith University that will surely benefit students of both academic institutions.
By: Erica De Leoz and Danielle Noche