Come September and I will clock 10 years as a World Pulse member. In these 10 years, I have been part of several great initiatives and events: a Voice of Our Future Correspondent, a World Pulse Live Tour participant, a Board member, A lead Ambassador and the Lead trainer. But the most rewarding experience has been that of an explorer who has traveled around the world, meeting Sheroes of this awesome community and discovering the great contribution they are making to make this world better. So, to celebrate completion of a decade, I am going to share the stories of a few over the next few days, starting today with someone many of you know: Paulina Lawsin Nayra of the Philippines.
I first met Paulina in 2011 - as a fellow Voice of Our Future (VOF) Correspondent. We had a monthly meeting of the class, but there were always technical challenges to battle: low internet speed, sudden power cuts, bad weather and so on. Still, somehow, we managed to read each others' posts, comment and connect on social media as well. And then, on March 7, 2019, we finally met in person, in her own home town Palo Alto (Tacloban), Philippines.
We spent 3 days together which were full of exciting activities like celebrating the Women's Day, meeting a number of amazing women of her community - many of whom have since joined World Pulse -, meeting government officials and the most unforgettable of all - meeting a group of women who are participating in a great environmental conservation project : restoration of the Sab-e Leyte Peatlands. The peatlands, for the uninitiated, are one of the most important ecosystems on the earth because it is a huge carbon sink and is extremely crucial for combating climate change - the greatest challenge before humanity today.
After my trip, I reported on this restoration project and you can read about it here: Island Women Take the Lead in Peatland Restoration
Now, Paulina introduced me to all these women who live in the peatland area, she facilitated our meetings where I could interview them, took me to show the peatland swamps and also introduced me to the members of WEAVERS - a network of women community leaders (that she leads) and how they are helping mobilizing the village women, arranging training for them and doing so much more. But she never, ever talked about her own role. She never ever said 'I am doing this' or 'I am doing that'. Its as though the world 'I' didn't exist in her book. And as a journalist who has traveled across the world meeting leaders of all kinds, this is such a marked departure from what I usually see : people doing very little in reality, yet would try to impress you with how much work they do. To put it very mildly, I felt a brand new level of admiration and love for this woman.
Fast forward to April 2020. Coronavirus had entered our world, turning it upside down. Like thousands others, my wings were also clipped and I was now forced to do all my work from home. And this is when my editor said, we want you to do a special story for the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), focusing on the Philippines. Why Philippines? Because the country has been reporting a lot of elder abuse of late and had just brought in a new law to tackle this issue.
So, in the next few days, I interviewed a number of people including a Senator (who has been instrumental in drafting the law), think tanks, academics, human rights defenders and elderly citizens. There was only one challenge: I could not find a single example of something good and positive happening with the elderly at the center of it.
And that's when I thought of Paulina again. And lo and behold, she told me about an initiative where elderly citizens had been doing collectively growing food for sustainability and security. And as you may have guessed it by now, She was one of the people closely associated with these growers, providing them support on many levels. So, after hearing of them from Paulina, I was then able to interview one of these women through a fellow journalist who happen to come from that province and knew her.
And so the story -which you can read here was now complete with a flicker of positiveness instead of all doom and gloom.
Now, many of you have have heard that the COVID-19 has increased the level of hunger by pushing millions of people back into poverty and making them food insecure. The World Food Program has just released a report on this as well. But even without reading any such report, it is not hard to understand that our economies are going through the hardest of our times. And in such a difficult time, everyone of us is looking for some positive solutions. For me, Paulina and the women she works with are bearers of that hope and positiveness. And today I want to take a moment to say to her 'Thank You'. Thank you Paulina for being the shero you are, for letting me know your story better and closer and finally and for letting me be your sister. May your tribe increase!