For hundreds of girls like Chaitanya Caraga and Sigrid Aila Medrana, poverty is a fact of life that makes them feel powerless to fulfill their dreams of higher education.

Lack of the family’s financial resources constantly worries Chaitanya come tuition time, while education was not an available option for Sigrid and her mother.

In fact, other girls in similar situations often feel trapped between two choices—to pursue their education and their dream of a better life, or give it all up in order to unburden their families. Unlike these other girls, however, Chaitanya and Sigrid were determined to pursue their dreams and education, knowing they have what it takes to make their dreams come true.

They applied and were accepted into the Cream Silk scholarship program, when it was first launched by Unilever in 2008. Because of the scholarship, both are now sophomores at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), proving their resilient nature by fearlessly studying fields not too many women would choose—metallurgical engineering for Chaitanya and electrical and computer engineering for Sigrid.

Supporting strength in women

“This scholarship program gives us women the chance to prove not only to ourselves but to the people around us that we have the power and capability to fulfill our dreams by working hard in every step we take,” enthused Chaitanya.

Unilever and Cream Silk believe in inspiring Filipinas like these UP scholars—women who not only have beauty and brains, but also power and the determination to succeed against the odds, even in a man’s world. The scholarship program supports such women through full scholarships from freshman year until graduation, provided that they are enrolled in courses at the country’s premiere state university.

The scholarship is part of Cream Silk’s Women Empowerment Program (WEP). Also launched in 2008, it aims to empower deserving Filipinas from all walks of life by providing them with educational and financial opportunities, including a partnership with Zonta for scholarships to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and the Rags to Riches livelihood project. Through these efforts, Cream Silk hopes to inspire women whose circumstances have hindered them from achieving their dreams to finally succeed, against all odds.

Apart from Chaitanya and Sigrid, 22 other students also received UP scholarships in 2008 and all were honored at the Cream Silk Scholars’ Recognition Night held recently.

The spirited character of the 22 scholars were evident as they arrived, filling the atmosphere in the ballroom with inspiring energy. The mood was intensified further with the moving messages of the evening’s distinguished panel of speakers, which included some of the country’s most educated, courageous and empowered young women.

“Knowing women’s important role in society, one sector we chose to focus on was their education–which is the pillar of a better future. Good education, as we all know, opens up one’s mind to endless possibilities and opportunities. Indeed, an educated woman is an empowered woman,” said Cream Silk Brand Manager Anna Karina Castillo.

She added that Cream Silk chose UPD as a partner because of its first-rate educational system and belief in equality among women and men.

UPD Chancellor Dr. Sergio S. Cao commended the Cream Silk WEP for giving women such an opportunity, despite the economic crisis driving most companies to cut costs.

“Scholarships like these are a way to a better life. It’s not easy for companies now to provide something like this. Unilever is very generous in putting up a financial program like its scholarship,” remarked UP Chancellor Dr. Sergio S. Cao.

Also inspiring the 21 Cream Silk scholars present that night was a stirring message from multi-awarded Philippine Daily Inquirer business reporter Abigail Ho.

She told the scholars, “I know that you are all empowered women who can take on whatever the world throws your way. I know this because, like you, I was also an Iskolar ng Bayan; and a true blue Iska stares challenges in the face and takes them on with gusto.”

The scholars agree and take this to heart, with Sigrid saying, “Problems can destroy us if we let them. We just have to be strong and brave. That is what being empowered means. As I stand here in front of you, I serve as living proof of how an empowered woman managed to survive and inspire others to be empowered, too.”

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