The NOVEL Chronicles

Born: October 24, 2012

Photo of Teresita Mendoza, Leonora Sunit and Maria Victoria Lucio - The founding members of NOVEL
Photo of Teresita Mendoza, Leonora Sunit and Maria Victoria Lucio – The founding members of NOVEL

3 of its core officers flocked for an afternoon coffee break for some chinwags about their personal lives until the banters turned into serious talks about blindness, blind people and other persons with disabilities.

They realized that most of them are disability advocates, but nothing they know of a group or leaders represent women with disabilities related to sight impairments. They also notice this fact in local and international conferences, where no particular organization in the Philippines embodies blind and low – vision women. This thought was intensified by the surfacing and complex issues related to woman as a gender and disability as part of womanhood.

A day after Christmas of the same year, a more formal get together happened in Makati, hosted by another core member who is the last additional member to the team. Vision and mission of the organization were discussed together with its consultant, (Mr. Lauro Purcil), and their adviser and also a core member, (Ms. Tess Mendoza). Who would have thought that another potential core member would surprise the team? The meeting host called for an afternoon snacks and temporarily adjourned the agenda. Everybody was busy eating and chatting and a woman with sight impairment came in the doorstep and greeted the members with glee. She was introduced by the host and informed everyone that she was invited as a potential core officer. The meeting continued and the late attendee was formally asked if she would be interested to become part of this all – girl group, and she responded with full delight, agreed to join the crux club.

January and February 2013

Just like a brewing coffee, ideas started to rasp, and pieces of coffee beans developed into a spectacular concoction. More meetings were held with alternating venues, and the vision, mission and goals of the team were set. This is in the same month that the documents for their registration at the security and exchange commission (SEC) were fully accomplished.

NOVEL's Meeting with Women And Gender Institute (WAGI)
NOVEL’s Meeting with Women And Gender Institute (WAGI)

Moreover, one of the considered breakthroughs of NOVEL is to penetrate a non – disability based women organization which is “Women And Gender Institute”, (WAGI) headquartered in Miriam College.

Group Photo of the NOVEL and WAGI
Group Photo of the NOVEL and WAGI

They offered WAGI a collaborating project for NOVEL’s first public appearance, and WAGI was their main lecturer in the occasion. The entire team decided to come up with a launching project that will introduce NOVEL in the disability sector with astonishing blares.

March – April 2013

Absence of funds did not become a disheartenment of NOVEL to push through the debut program. It can be said that, the set of core officers is a good fusion of creative, resourceful and intelligent women. All members rolled up their sleeves and did huge efforts to get sponsors and donors for everything they need to mount the conference. Additionally, despite their difficulty to see clearly, two of their low – vision members designed their electronic flyers and invitations and were sent out to all target organizations, disability leaders and government agencies. Other members wrote the campaign materials, articles and did massive social media advertising to capture their needed audience. In fact, other officers were able to obtain some financial help from a few private individuals abroad who never had skepticisms towards their credibility as an organization. Lastly, the core members developed a short video documentation about public’s perception towards women with disabilities entering marriage or romantic relationships. Due to lack of funds, you can never contest their dedication and passion to what they do. The video may seemed inept but it turned out to be presentable enough to be played in the conference. The scripts and editing are also done by its officers.

The launching activity was coined, “Eve Is On Groove! Women Power Excites!” The program title was carefully and uniquely named because it aims to project modernization, describing strength of a woman and showing that women is rapidly moving, innovating and taking leadership in any field. Eve is a symbolic name that sounds unrivaled, modern and firm. The conference was chiefly about legal empowerment through the promotion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), Magnacarta of disabled persons (RA 7277) and United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (UNCEDAW). In the afternoon session, the lectures were about successful married couples where one has a disability, and it also tackled about the equal rights of women with disabilities to love, be loved, enter romantic relationships, get married, have satisfying sex life and decide for their sexual and reproductive health, using the mentioned laws and conventions as basis of living a happier and barrier free life.

The launching event of NOVEL was regarded as one of a kind and historic in the disability sector. The concept and blend of topics were daring, unrestrictive and very brave to tackle the strong relationship of human and gender rights to their personal decisions in life including but not limited to love and sex. It was indeed successful, knowing that young women with disabilities required a different lecturing approach that would widen their understanding and not mislead them, given that the topics are highly sensitive.

Shortly after the launching, NOVEL plunged to another huge program that empowered women with disabilities. One of their officers participated as one of the candidates of Miss Wheels, Signs and Visions Philippines 2013, and their representative bagged a special award from one of its sponsors as Miss Careline Beauty 2013. It was inspired from typical beauty pageants but tailor fitted for women with disabilities where inner beauty is more significant than the physical attributes. The crowned winners will have a reign of one year to go around the country and promote women leadership and empowerment in relation to disabilities.

NOVEL At Present

The NOVEL Team (Standing from left to right: Teresita Mendoza, Maria Criselda Bisda, Shiela May Aggarao), (Sitting from left to right: Leonora Sunit, Gina Rose Balanlay, Maria Victoria Lucio, Janine Cruezet)
The NOVEL Team (Standing from left to right: Teresita Mendoza, Maria Criselda Bisda, Shiela May Aggarao), (Sitting from left to right: Leonora Sunit, Gina Rose Balanlay, Maria Victoria Lucio, Janine Cruezet)

NOVEL is indeed a fast moving organization. They are phenomenal at their own right, for accomplishing numerous achievements, participations, involvements and leadership. For more than a year of existence, they have gained respect from local and international confederates, became an accredited member of the Philippine coalition on UNCRPD and collaborators of other government agencies and organizations in varying projects / conferences. To know more about our other achievements from 2012 to date, you may refer to the “Accomplishments and involvements” page.

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