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Tour helps build KK-Taipei rapport
Published on: Sunday, June 18, 2017

IN a nutshell, the Sabah Women Entrepreneurs & Professionals Association's (Swepa) recent business study tour of Taiwan, participated by 18 leaders and members, not only forged a bond of friendship but also established business networking ties with their counterparts.

The educational tour was organised by the Association's Social Committee headed by Tricia Mojulat.

The delegation included Swepa President Wynnie Jong, Immediate Past President Datin Jeanette Tambakau, Past Presidents Sue Yong and Doris Lim, Legal Adviser Teoh See See and Swepa Toastmasters Club (STMC) President Dora Voon. Our Group Leader was Soo Yuen Mee who also acted as translator apart from Sue and Lai Fui Nar.

On our fully-packed itinerary was a "must-have" courtesy call on the President of Malaysian Friendship and Trade Centre (MFTC), Taipei, Datuk Adeline Leong, enabling us to gain a better insight into the role and functions of the Centre. There, we attended a briefing by the Deputy President Anwar Udzir.

Interestingly, we learned that Leong's task, enviable or otherwise, is more than just promoting bilateral relations between Malaysia and Taiwan in the areas of business, trade, education and culture.

One aspect of her job is visiting the Malaysian female prisoners. "I bring them nasi lemak, kueh cincin and give them a shoulder to cry on," she told us. It is understood that a Sabah girl is serving a 16-year jail sentence for drug offences.

Sharing her work experience, Leong, who is Malaysia's Head of Mission to Taiwan, said a typical work week consists of meetings, courtesy calls, attendance at government functions and National Day celebrations by other countries.

She also chairs Perwakilan Taipei which consists of lady officers and wives of officers in MFTC.

Apart from giving lectures on Malaysia and its relations with Taiwan at the Ministry of Education, the National Cheng Chi University and the Talent Development Institute in Nantou County, Leong was invited to speak at the opening of Taiwan's Halal Promotion Centre and at a Taiwan Trade Seminar, among other events.

From another perspective, she said, the costume, dancing and songs of the Tsou tribe are very similar to those of our ethnic groups in Sabah as they all belong to the Austronesian culture. Adeline actually made this observation after visiting the scenic Alishan (Ali Mountain) area to attend the important Mayasvi Ceremony of the tribe.

It was brought to our attention that the Mayasvi or Ceremony of War and Triumph is the greatest event in the calendar of Taiwan's Tsou people.

Through the good offices of Adeline, who hosted a reception in honour of the visiting delegation at a Turkish Restaurant, Swepa ladies had a fruitful date with at least two women non-governmental organisations (NGOs), namely Taiwan Women Entrepreneurs Association (TWEA) and International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International), Taiwan-Taoyuan Club (or BPW International, Taiwan-Taoyuan Club) which share the same objectives as those of Swepa. Like Swepa, the Taiwan counterpart (TWEA) is an organisation for business and professional women to network and further develop their professional and business potential.

We had a field day meeting, interacting and exchanging notes (on business and experience) with successful women entrepreneurs in Taiwan. The hospitality accorded to us was fantastic from the moment we arrived at the Taoyuan International Airport, not to mention the enthusiastic exchange of souvenirs.

As Wynnie put it, "Our meeting with the ladies from BPW International, Taiwan-Taoyuan Club was indeed very cordial and friendly as if we had known each other for years. Gift exchange between the two organisations strengthened the friendship further.

"As we share the same values and promote the same objectives, this is where we can develop partnerships in business ventures."

She welcomed the great offer from a member of the Taoyuan Club (who owns a bed manufacturing company) to bring an Acapella group of singers to KK in November this year to serenade the guests during the Swepa presidential installation cum banquet. This group has won an international award in Taipei, according to Wynnie.

TWEA, which has a membership of about 350, was founded in March 2000 by a prominent businesswoman Jenny Ma who turned 76 this year. Her aim was to unite women entrepreneurs for the creation of a new economic horizon for women. Like Swepa, its members are drawn from a wide range of professions and small and medium-size businesses.

Currently, BPW International, Taiwan-Taoyuan Club is led by Mandy Tsai with Anna Tsai as Immediate Past President. Formed in 2008, the Club has 70 members.

What a unique experience it was for us, sampling Taiwan cuisine at the Laozhuang Garden Restaurant owned by Mandy, rated as one of the top restaurants in the Taoyuan District, after our arrival in Taipei.

Formed in 2008, the Taoyuan Club is one of the 10 Associate Clubs of BPW International, Taiwan (which in turn is an affiliate of BPW International). Other Associate Clubs in Taiwan include Taipei 1 Club, Taipei 2 Club, Taichung Club, Kaohsiung County Club, Kaohsiung 1 Club and Kaohsiung II Club, Tainan Club and Pingtung Club.

Each Associate Club organises its own monthly activities, seminars, charity work and visiting trips which enable members to exchange ideas and learn from the experiences of other successful entrepreneurs.

These local clubs (as affiliates of BPW International, Taiwan) play an active role in organising economic empowerment programmes for their members. Like Swepa, the Taoyuan Club had so far organised study tours for its members to countries like Singapore, the Philippines and Japan, among other destinations.

The 29th BPW International Congress will be held in Cairo, Egypt in October this year.

"I look forward to collaboration between BPW Taiwan-Taoyuan Club and Swepa for mutual benefits," said incoming 2018 President Grace Chung. "Look for me whenever you come to Taiwan."

Speaking at the lunch reception hosted by Mandy at her farmhouse restaurant, Adeline said: "Today's inaugural meeting is the beginning of a long-term friendship. How powerful it would be for two groups of women entrepreneurs to pool their resources. You can achieve wonders." To cap it all, she invited the Taiwan Women Entrepreneurs Association and BPW International, Taiwan-Taoyuan Club to attend the installation of Swepa's new Executive Committee in November this year. The two organisations readily accepted the invitation.

BPW International, Taiwan, an affiliate of BPW International, was established as a national organisation in 2008 to provide the necessary education, training and opportunities for women to achieve economic independence and assume their rightful place in the economy, all the professions, in politics and society.

Today, BPW International has become one of the most influential international networks of business and professional women with affiliates in more than 100 countries in five regions, namely Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific, North America and Latin America.

We agreed that a visit to the island nation would not be complete without promoting Sabah's well-known products.

Our Swepa delegation did exactly that by giving away Tenom coffee, Sabah tea, anchovies and made-in-Sabah clutch bags (handcrafted by Mj by MUS (Exclusive Ethnic Fashion & Accessories Seri), apart from highlighting Sabah's proboscis monkey (or long-nosed monkey) which is endemic to Borneo.

An appreciative Wynnie made a vote of thanks to the Sabah Tourism Board for its contribution of hand fans (portraying the proboscis monkey), Sabah tea, eco bags and brochures featuring places of interest in Sabah (Mandarin version) and a DVD on Sabah's tourism, marketing the Land Below The Wind as an ideal holiday destination.

As all work and no play would make us dull "girls", off we went for a dose of leisure tourism while discovering the ancient history and cultural side of Taiwan after the formalities were over. Earlier, Adeline had vouched that Taiwan is a very safe place to live in as the crime rate is low and they have CCTV in every street corner.

Obviously, Taiwan is also advanced in terms of public transportation so we tried out the MRT as encouraged by Adeline. But we didn't have the opportunity to use those U Bikes despite the availability of proper bicycle lanes.

We moved from county to county, stopping to view the famous Taroko National Park (one of the nine national parks in Taiwan), spanning the Hualien County (on the east of Taiwan), Taichung County (central-western Taiwan) and Nantou County in central Taiwan (a landlocked county where the scenic Sun Moon Lake is located).

Incredibly, this was where Adeline and hubby Casey spent their honeymoon 42 years ago.

While in the Hualien County, our tour commentator told us that the Amis tribe forms the largest group of Taiwan's 16 indigenous tribes. With a total population of about 177,000, they live on plains in northern Hualien, south to the coastal plains and the hilly areas of Taitung and the Hengchun Peninsula. The Indigenous Peoples Cultural Development Centre (under the Council of Indigenous Peoples) is located in Pingtung, southern Taiwan.

He never ceased to feed us with abundant information although I could see that half of us were asleep in one or two of those tedious journeys by coach.

All good things must come to an end so after a five-day eye-opening sojourn in Taiwan, it was Home Sweet Home. - Mary Chin

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