The curtain drew on this year’s Asian Women’s Empowerment Conference today. It had been a fantastic weekend in Kuala Lumpur, where I got to meet some of the bloggers I have been following for a while as well as inspirational women whose stories simply touched my heart.
I had come here to network with like-minded women, found that we all connected on a personal level, and that each of us had something to offer the others. I’ve learned great many things this weekend and I thought I’d take this chance to share them with you.
“You cannot be independent without being dependent”
Juno, of Runaway Juno, is the creator of the AWE. “Society tells us that if you are not working for a big company, earning big money, then you are a no body”, said Juno in her opening speech. She wanted the conference to be an inspiration to women to take up the courage and go solo, see the world and grow our independence so that we can be empowered to do what we want to do and live the life we want to live.
However, one of her message was that we cannot be truly independent, unless we have a support group. While family and friends may be there for many of us, it is often those who are the closest to us that pose the most challenge for our independence, so it is important to make friends and create a support group for ourselves with people who shared the same dreams and have the same values. This conference was the avenue for the women in Asia, who are very often faced with social expectations and barriers to learn that we are not alone.
“Solo travel is the best education”
Jeannie Mark, Nomadic Chick, spoke to us about solo travel. Most importantly, solo woman travel. She began her talk by outlining the negative connotations to the word ‘solo’, and loneliness is often used to compared to solo travel. However she made a good point getting out there by ourselves: “when it’s you and the world together, you are not really alone”.
Danger is always a possibility, but never a certainty.
Jeannie shares the same point of view as I do about travel, that it is the best education we are going to get about life and everything around it. Solo travel, she said, gives you the opportunity to decide for ourselves what we want to do and when, it poses challenges that we have to solve on our own, situations we have to face through our self reasoning. Things we learn when we travel solo are things that we will never learn through text books or lectures, these are experiences that define our characters and our strength to face the world at large.
Many of us at the conference all agreed: everyone, both women and men, should travel solo at least once in our lives, because solo travel is the best education.
As for safety, Jeannie also echoed what I had previous blogged about our perceptions of the world. The world is really not that bad. We only hear negative news about places because that’s what drives ratings. However, once you have travelled and made friends with people from all over the world, you will realise that no matter what culture or religion, “people want the same things we do: happiness, love, family and security” (Jeannie Mark).
“Danger is always a possibility, but never a certainty”, Jeannie further added when asked about travelling in dangerous places. Danger is relative, and can mean different things to different people. She reminded us that news media will report what they want to report, and while we should take note, we need to realise that “people are not like that all the same, and no country is like that all the time.” It is important to go with our gut instincts and apply the same precautions you would if you were at home in our own environments.
“Women need to be financially independent”
Ligwina Hananto is a financial planner and CEO of QM Financials in Indonesia who helps women to understand their financial needs to be self reliant. Her message was simple, that every woman needs to be financially independent, even for house wives who receive allowances from husbands, they need to manage this money as an income rather than pocket money as to not lose sight of their spending and savings.
Her projects has taken her to West Papua to help women understand how to manage household finances, Lombok to teach them about parenting and money, as well as consult Indonesian women on planning their own finances.
One thing I’ve learned from her, was that no matter what we want to do in life, whether we are on the corporate ladder or a full time blogger, we need to remember this: always have a backup plan. This should be in the form of emergency savings of at least 3 months’ worth of living expenses for singles, double it for couples and double it again for families with one child and add a further 3 months per child in addition.
It was hard to say goodbye to my new found friends, but I know wherever we are in the world, we’ll manage to keep in touch. After all, there’s always next year’s AWE to look forward to!