Filipino women aim to raise status of Pinays in Switzerland

By Brady Eviota , ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Oct 09 2009 07:46 PM | Updated as of Oct 10 2009 07:49 PM

BERN, SWITZERLAND -- A core group of Filipino women will undergo leadership trainings in the coming months in preparation for their role as leaders and ambassadors of the Philippines in Switzerland.

With an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Filipinos already in Switzerland, the Philippine Embassy felt it is time for the Filipino community to start being engaging Switzerland’s political, economic and cultural spheres.

“I feel that with the increasing numbers of Filipinos, we have also increasingly contributed to the economy of this country, being nurses, accountants, many others. Even in the domestic jobs, we are contributing a lot to this country”, Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Maria Theresa Lazaro told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau in an interview.

“It’s about time that we call the local governments, the state, even the confederation council that the Filipino community is a growing community, able to contribute more and therefore, there should also be some requests for funds so that we are able to do more,” added Lazaro.

The Embassy rounded up a group of about 20 Filipino women over the weekend for a peer-counseling seminar that included pep talks from a Pinay psychologist and exercises on self-esteem, leadership and teambuilding.

“Look at the US and the other countries, why are the blacks and the Latinos prominent? Because they are not quiet, they are noisy. Because they project themselves well. I think we have to do that,“ Lazaro told the group.

Lazaro added, “You are not only Filipino citizens, you are Swiss. You have every right to be noisy. You are able to project the country at its best, and the Filipino at its best.”

Among the group was a lawyer, a psychologist, a kindergarten teacher, a tourist guide, a bank accountant, pharmaceutical workers, domestic workers and several nurses.

“This group will decide on their own. It will not be imposed by the Embassy. We’re just trying to get leadership skills of these people, trying to enhance their leadership skills,” said Lazaro.

Anny Hefti-Misa, the psychologist who facilitated the exercises said as immigrants, Filipinas are able to overcome many challenges including cultural and language differences and homesickness.

“We are not only survivors. We are actually winners,” Hefti told the group.

Flor Oberli, meanwhile, has lived in Switzerland for 34 years after marrying a Swiss. She said the experience of Filipinas in earning money “the hard way” will help new arrivals integrate faster into Swiss life.

The Embassy hopes that by being prominent members of the Swiss community, these Filipinas can also help the Philippines in return. Further trainings will be held to help in their integration and participation in Swiss community life.