Rising Star wins WLA Virtual Pitch and vows to “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence”

In October 2016, Wedu partnered with the U.S. Mission to ASEAN organize the YSEALI Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA) in Jakarta which brought together 40 women leaders across the 10 ASEAN countries for a one-week intensive personal and professional leadership training program. Post Academy, some WLA participants participated in a virtual design thinking course facilitated by Wedu and DSIL with the objective of designing innovative solutions to regional or local challenges. The culmination of this initiative was the WLA Virtual Pitch held in March 2017. We are proud to announce that one of our Rising Stars, Rose Ann with project “iSpeak: Break the Silence. Stop the Violence” is the winner of WLA Virtual Pitch Competition.

Rose Ann is a social worker from the Philippines who serves as the Director of Program and Operations for My Refuge House, an organization that provides comprehensive care to trafficking survivors. Over the past six years at My Refuge House, she has worked on issues such as abuse, violence, and human trafficking that is prevalent amongst women and children in Cebu. Inspired by her work at My Refuge House, Rose Ann redoubled her efforts for iSpeak after being awarded US$1000 for winning the WLA Virtual Pitch Competition.

iSpeak, as the name suggests, is a call for people to speak up against violence, abuse, and human trafficking. It is a campaign that aims to educate and promote awareness about issues relating to sex-trafficking and abuse. Through advocacy campaigns and training sessions, iSpeak hopes to raise awareness about these issues in order to empower individuals in the community to assume the social responsibility to speak out against these crimes. “A single intervention from a random bystander could change the course of the life of a potential victim of human trafficking,” shared Rose Ann.

A novel and innovative way of confronting the problem of human trafficking, iSpeak was not a campaign born out of nowhere. In her first two years working at My Refuge House, Rose Ann’s interactions with the community in Cebu revealed how misinformed people were about the horrors of sexual abuse and sex trafficking. She shared the story of a girl who was trafficked by her mother and stepfather who thought she was doing the right thing as she was helping to feed the family. “That was the moment I realized that caring for these girls was not enough. We needed people to raise awareness, advocate, and educate, to prevent these abuses from even happening,” said Rose Ann. By empowering families and communities to take an active role in protecting their children instead of exploiting them, these can be prevented from the very beginning.  

Rose Ann hopes that iSpeak will provide a safe space for the community to have honest conversations about sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other forms of violence. With this project, she hopes to build a violence-free community where families are empowered to protect their children instead of abusing them. As for long-term goals for iSpeak, Rose Ann shared: “we would like to see more men taking part in this advocacy and encourage them to take an active role in protecting women and children.”


Wedu and the US Mission to ASEAN would like to congratulate Rose Ann for initiating such a meaningful and important campaign to tackle the issue of human trafficking and abuse. As the world becomes a more dangerous place for women with the increase in violence and abuses against them, iSpeak is a crucial step towards ending the worldwide violence and abuse of women and young girls.



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