Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Outstanding Achievement Awardee Senith Araez.

A Filipina entrepreneur who set up a travel agency in Puerto Princesa before the pandemic was honored by the U.S. government with the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Outstanding Achievement Award for her exemplary leadership in business and contributions to the empowerment of women in her community.

The award was presented to Senith Araez on March 8, International Women’s Day, during the first regional AWE Summit organized by the U.S. government from March 6-9 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

Araez founded Whistler Travel and Tours in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan in 2019. Through the business mentorship and training provided by AWE, she was able to expand her business and cater to clients based in the United States. 

In her company, 75 percent of employees are single mothers or women who are family breadwinners.

U.S. Embassy Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer Pauline Anderson (fifth from right) and AWE beneficiaries from the Philippines showcase Filipino products at the first ever AWE Summit held from March 6 to 9 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

More than 200 businesswomen and AWE graduates from Brunei, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam attended the event.

“I am humbled to receive this Outstanding Achievement Award.  AWE made it possible for me to develop a sound business plan that resulted in engagements with local, national, and now, international corporate accounts,” Araez said.

Launched by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2019, AWE is a hybrid program that combines the use of DreamBuilder—an online business training curriculum developed by Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management—with in-class mentoring and facilitation.  Globally, the program has trained more than 25,000 women entrepreneurs in 100 countries.

In the Philippines, AWE has trained more than 180 women beneficiaries since its launch in October 2020.  Araez is actively involved in establishing a new AWE cohort in Puerto Princesa City that is expected to provide professional training for 30 women working in the local fishing industry.

“When we opened AWE Philippines in 2020, our vision was to provide Filipinas with the confidence and technical skills needed to start sustainable businesses.  Now three years later, we are excited to see these entrepreneurs expand their business ideas and their networks of entrepreneur partners,” said U.S. Embassy Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer Pauline Anderson.

AWE Philippines is implemented by non-profit organization Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran (SPARK!) and the U.S. Embassy’s American Spaces network in Bacolod City, Cebu City, Manila, Marawi City, and Puerto Princesa City.  In December 2022, two new AWE cohorts led by SPARK! were established in Bohol and Zambaonga del Sur.