To commemorate this year’s National Women’s Month as well as International Women’s Day with the theme #BreaktheBias, Smile Train, the world’s leading cleft-focused organization, celebrates women who empower others to go against bias and stigma brought about by physical differences, and promotes a more welcoming and inclusive society for all individuals born with a cleft.
Individuals born with a cleft lip and/or palate often experience bullying and are subjected to stigma based on their physical differences. They face these difficulties on top of other challenges such as difficulties in eating, breathing, and speaking.
“Creating an environment that is welcoming and non-judgmental underpins our advocacy of helping those born with a cleft lip and/or palate. Our goal is not only to provide them with the proper cleft care treatment and services, but also to join others to help eliminate the bias and stigma they face,’’ shared Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Vice President, Smile Train South East Asia.
Woman to woman: Smile Makers share messages for NWMC
Celebrity Smile Makers
In time for the National Women’s Month Celebration (NWMC), Smile Train Global Ambassador Catriona Gray shared how Smile Train in the Philippines has supported over 65,000 free life-changing cleft surgeries. She shared, “We want to [deliver] treatment to girls and women, to give them the confidence and opportunities they need to pursue their dreams. Together we can all create a world where difference is valued and celebrated.”
Long time Smile Maker Marian Rivera expressed that all the women who have created an impact on one’s life should be celebrated since they have given care and guidance especially to those who are struggling with cleft. “This Women’s Month, we should continue to fight for our rights as women,” shared Rivera. Barbie Forteza also wished to bring the spotlight on all the women in the cleft community, such as doctors, nurses, social workers, dentists, and other medical professionals who have impacted the lives of children with clefts as well as their families.
Smile Train Partners
(From L-R) Smile Train partner and anesthesiologist Dr. Ny Arizala, and Smile Train supporter and endurance runner Marge Camacho
Smile Train partner and anesthesiologist Dr. Ny Arizala said, “The role of women in today’s world can never be undermined. Let’s recognize and celebrate the outstanding contributions of women in improving access to cleft care here and around the world.” Smile Train supporter and Endurance runner Marge Camacho also expressed, “In today’s world where women have overwhelmingly shown we can do anything we put our minds to, there is no room for bias and discrimination. Let’s work together to empower and enable girls born with a cleft who continue to face stigma and difficulties.”
Smile Train Patients
Smile Train Volunteer and real estate professional, Cris Magallanes
From once being a Smile Train patient and beneficiary, and now a real estate professional and Smile Train supporter, Cris Magallanes shared “Sa Buwan ng Kababaihan, isulong natin ang isang mundong malaya sa diskriminasyon, kung saan lahat ay tinatanggap nang walang panghuhusga. Kasama ng Smile Train, tuloy kong susuportahan ang mga tao at mga babaeng may cleft upang maranasan nila ang mapagtanggap na buhay at marating ang kanilang mga pangarap.”
(For Women’s Month, let us advance a world free of discrimination, where everyone is accepted without judgment. With Smile Train, I will continue to support people and women with clefts so that they can experience a welcoming life and reach their dreams.)
Smile Train patient, baby Lexine with mommy Noelyn Solano
While a mother of Smile Train patient baby Lexine, Noelyn Solano, shared a message to fellow moms, “Saludo ako sa lahat ng kababaihan, lalo na sa mga nanay ng mga batang may cleft, na patuloy na nagsisikap at nagsasakripisyo para mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang kanilang mga anak. Nagpapasalamat ako sa Smile Train at sa lahat ng mga partners nito sa pagtulong sa amin na makamit ang pangarap na iyon para sa aming mga anak.”
(I salute all the women, especially the mothers of children with clefts, who continue to work hard and sacrifice to provide a better future for their children. I am grateful to Smile Train and all its partners for helping us achieve that dream for our children.)
“We are thankful for the women in our organization, especially the mothers of those with clefts, who continue to encourage and support us and of course their children. It is through their encouragement that we can create an environment that is welcoming and accepting. It is our Smile Makers — women volunteers, mothers, and ambassadors, who help normalize cleft as a medical concern that can be treated through surgery, rather than it being a source of stigma and bias,” said Flaviano.
While it is a continuous journey to fight the stigma brought about by cleft, Smile Train wishes to create life-changing experiences that can empower women through positive changes in their body. Through their cleft treatment and services, Smile Train works toward a more inclusive and welcoming community for women in the Philippines.
To know more about Smile Train’s global efforts and ways to donate, please visit smiletrain.org. To learn more about Smile Train’s local programs in the Philippines or to refer a patient in need, please visit smiletrain.ph/get-help. Follow Smile Train Philippines on Instagram @SmileTrainPh, and like us on Facebook at @SmileTrainPhilippines.