In partnership with Pond’s, the VVLead Fellowship brings together global women leaders of social change to advance and amplify their work through collaboration, visibility, and training. Since meeting in June, our fellows have been making amazing partnerships happen around the world. This blog series highlights their achievements and the power of the Vital Voices network.
Baiqu Gonkar is the founder and director of Art Represent, a social enterprise dedicated to empowering artists affected by conflict and social upheaval. The first platform of this kind, Art Represent is a curated digital marketplace that provides artists with a source of income and a cultural platform that stages exhibitions and creative projects with partners around the globe.
Cecille Yllang Montenegro is the president of Batis-AWARE, a grassroots women’s organization based in the Philippines for returned migrant workers and their children. Cecille started the ETA (Empowerment Through Art) program to raise awareness and funding for aspiring artists. This program provides workshops and art therapy for women survivors of human rights violations.
After meeting at the VVLead Kickoff Summit, Baiqu and Cecille began a collaboration to feature the migrant artists from the ETA program on the Art Represent website – allowing them to sell their art and tell their stories.
“When I met Cecille at VVLead and I heard about the work she does,” Baiqu says, “I knew we had to collaborate. We discussed the current political climate in the Philippines, the instability and tension Cecille and her friends faced, our belief in the power of art and its ability to empower people. I wanted to have Cecille’s work and the works of the artists in her organization to have a place on our platform and hopefully reach audiences that would not have come across their work otherwise.”
Promoting artists from Batis-AWARE is a dream-come-true for Cecille, whose goal is to amplify women’s voices globally. Cecille reflects on the Kickoff Summit and meeting the other fellows: “I was surrounded with women champions from all over the world. I am leading an organization here without any formal training or previous experience, but I wanted to take a stand for the organization because I felt the need of my people. I thought to myself, ‘if it isn’t me, then who? If it’s not now, then when?’”
“Being a part of VVLead is like finding my tribe. The time we spent in South Africa was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. I felt empowered, connected, and motivated. We can only do so much alone; in order to drive real change in the world, we have to find allies and work together.” – Baiqu Gonkar
Baiqu hopes to follow up with an on-the-ground project between their two organizations next. “Cecille is incredible in the work she does to train and support local artists and women who have been survivors of abuse, and Art Represent recognizes that most of our artist communities are lacking the support system offered to artists in Europe or North America. I hope we can also build an incubation and training hub for artists in Quezon City, Philippines.”
We are so proud that VVLead could bring together these incredible women, who show us the power of the VV network. A big thanks to our partners at Pond’s, who encourage our fellows to lead through collaboration.
Check out Cecille’s art and story currently featured on ArtRepresent, along with the work of Philippine artists Nova and Anthony of the ETA program.
Authored by: Ellen Gilbert (Staff), Emily Goodman (Staff), Baiqu Gonkar (VVLead Fellow), Cecille Yllang Montenegro (VVLead Fellow)