On International Women’s Day, Migrante International gives tribute to all Filipina migrant workers who continue to fight against abuses and exploitation, and stand in solidarity with them in the struggle against forced migration and modern-day slavery being espoused by the Aquino administration’s more aggressive labor export policy.
Under the administration of Pres. Aquino, more women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been forced to migrate and leave their families. An estimated 6,092 Filipinos leave the country daily (IBON Foundation, 2015 data) – among them, mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, grandparents who were forced to face dire straits and uncertain conditions abroad due to widespread joblessness, landlessness and dismal social services here in the country. This figure is an increase of 50% percent from 4,030 OFWs a day in 2010, when Aquino took office. To date, women OFWs make up more than half (55%) of the stock estimate of OFWs, outnumbering male OFWs especially in the service sector (Center for Filipinos Overseas, 2012).
Women OFWs face very specific vulnerabilities because they are women – sexual discrimination and other gender-specific abuses, exploitation and violence in the sorts of work they tend to predominate. This is especially the case when women OFWs migrate for work that is in line with their traditionally-defined reproductive roles in society (i.e. domestic workers, nurses, caregivers, etc.).
According to Migrante’s annual databank (2013-2014), more women OFWs faced all sorts of hardships and exploitation during the past year. Of the 174 cases of repatriation handled and facilitated by Migrante’s Rights and Welfare Assistance Program (RWAP), 138 are women. Majority of them were physically, verbally and emotionally abused, overworked, underpaid and suffered work-related violations.
Of the 104 cases referred by Migrante to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) from 2013 to 2014, 88 cases involved women OFWs who were illegally dismissed or terminated or were victimized by abusive recruiters and employers. 45 out of the 60 cases endorsed by Migrante in that same period to the National Labor Relations Commission, meanwhile, (NLRC) involved women OFWs.
For January to February 2015 alone, Migrante’s RWAP has already handled at least 50 cases of violence against women (VAW) OFWs, ranging from physical assault, sexual harassment, attempted rape, rape, sex trafficking to verbal abuse and emotional torture.
The current onslaught of the global economic crisis also further intensifies abuses and violations faced by women OFWs. The worsening crisis makes them more vulnerable to trafficking, criminalization of irregular or undocumented migrants, and drives them to tolerate more abuses in the workplace. The worsening crisis under the Aquino regime conceives for them more desperate conditions, locally and abroad.
Under the Aquino administration, the number of trafficked OFWs, mostly women, has reached a staggering 1.3 million, according to 2012 data by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Many of them migrated to work through legal means but were later coerced into exploitative conditions, drug trade or white slavery.
Unfortunately, the Aquino government lacks the political will and competence to fully address these cases. Twenty years after the execution of Flor Contemplacion, many others like her have come after. Many abused, exploited and maltreated women OFWs are yet to attain justice, with government support and assistance generally lacking. Twenty years after Flor Contemplacion’s death, many women migrant workers have organized themselves to continue to organize in efforts to confront the struggles and challenges of their plight.
Today, marching with us are modern-day Flor Contemplacions, courageous women OFWs from different parts of the world and their families who braved their plight and survived. They continue to call for justice. They realize that forced migration and modern-day slavery can only ever be stopped on a day when our citizens will no longer be forced to face dire and dangerous conditions overseas out of desperation, poverty and hopelessness. They unite with other women and sectors of society in calling for the removal of Aquino from office. Migrante marches with them in solidarity with the women’s struggle for freedom and national democracy. This International Women’s Day, we salute and honor them and other women OFWs around the world.
Twenty years after the death of Flor Contemplacion, Filipino migrants and their families are once again roused into collective action and determination to exercise their democratic right to bring about regime and system change. Migrante International is part of NOW! (Noynoy Out Now!), a broad multisectoral formation calling for Aquino’s resignation and the formation of a People’s Council to replace him. On March 17, the 20th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, Migrante and its chapters and affiliates worldwide will be holding a “Global Day of Action for Aquino’s Resignation”. ###