2 Filipinos make it to class 2017 of Asia 21

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Cherrie Atilano CEO, Agrea Agricultural Systems International Inc.

Two young Filipino women leaders—the founder of an agro-social enterprise that helps farmers and fisherfolk and the founder of a school for the poor—made it to the 2017 roster of Asia 21, the foremost network of young leaders curated by New York-based international educational non-profit organization Asia Society.

Cherrie Atilano, founder and chief executive officer of Agrea Agricultural Systems International Inc. and Eleanor Rosa Pinugu, founder of Mano Amiga Academy, were among the 30 young leaders from 21 countries forming the newest batch of Asia 21.

They are deemed the next generation of leaders in government, business, arts, media and the non-profit sector.

Asia 21, now on its 12th year, has grown into a network of more than 800 young leaders from 40 nations, working together to shape a brighter future for Asia-Pacific.

Young leaders under the Asia 21 network are selected through a highly competitive process based on outstanding achievement, commitment to public service, and a proven ability to make the world a better place.

Suyin Liu-Lee, executive director of Asia Society Philippines, said Atilano and Pinugu’s “diverse backgrounds will complement the current Asia 21 Philippine Young Leader community.”

“Their commitment to uplift our country’s future through their respective advocacies is admirable and as Asia 21 Young Leaders, they will continue to influence their peers and others to create sustainable impact,” Lee said.

To date, the Philippines has one of the larger pools of young leaders, numbering 69 in total, coming from fields ranging from healthcare to the military.

“Asia 21 really brings to life Asia Society’s mission to build bridges of understanding across the Asia-Pacific region, across different sectors and between Asia and the world,” Asia Society president and CEO Josette Sheeran.

“Our goal is not just to recognize the amazing work these young leaders are doing, but to connect them to one another so that they can take on some of the biggest challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region today.”

Atilano’s agro-social enterprise Agrea aims to help eradicate poverty for farming and fishing families in order to alleviate the effects of climate change and establish food security in the Philippines.

It has been mobilizing communities, businesses, academia, local and national governments, and international partners to bring an “Ecology of Dignity” to farming and fishing communities on the island of Marinduque.

“Leadership is leading the way you like to be led. It is about empowering and enabling people and having the humility to listen, learn and serve,” she said.

Previously, Atilano worked as a consultant with the Department of Agrarian Reform and helped form a cooperative of 241 smallholder farmers in the country.

Atilano is a World Economic Forum (WEF) “Global Shaper” and recipient of numerous honors and awards, including “Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneur” in 2017, “The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS) Award in 2016, and “Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines” in 2007.

She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in horticulture from Visayas State University.

Eleanor Rosa Pinugu founder of Mano Amiga Academy

The non-profit school Mano Amiga Academy founded by Pinugu, on the other hand, aims to provide high-quality education and development services to low-income communities. She is also the co-founder of Bistro 3846, a social enterprise that provides healthy meals to schoolchildren, employs the parents of the Mano Amiga students, and donates its profits to the Mano Amiga scholarship fund.

Pinugu’s vision is to make quality education accessible to all children. She was also named a “Global Shaper” by the World Economic Forum and chosen to speak at the IdeasLab session at the 2012 WEF annual meeting in Davos, where she received a grant of $10,000 from the Good Planet Foundation. She is also one of the youngest recipients of TOWNS. Pinugu holds a Bachelor’s degree from Ateneo De Manila University and a postgraduate certificate in sustainable business value chains from the University of Cambridge.

“Leadership is being authentic to one’s purpose and using one’s unique capabilities in order to create value for society and facilitate the growth of people,” Pinugu said.

This year’s Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit, presented in partnership with the Victorian Government, will convene in Melbourne, Australia, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

Under the theme World Disrupted: Asia’s Future, members of the 2017 class and Asia 21 alumni will draw upon their combined expertise to generate creative, multidisciplinary approaches to shared challenges. They will share best practices in leadership and explore opportunities for collaboration to effect positive impact and change across the Asia-Pacific.

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