Statement of Migrante International on 2012 International Women’s Day Forced migration in the Philippines has a woman’s face

Forced migration has become the worst cause and manifestation of all forms of abuse, oppression and exploitation of Filipina OFWs all over the world.

 The  “feminization” of labor migration was most marked in the decade and a half since 1990, driven by the rise in number of domestic workers and caregivers going abroad due to the intensification of the labor export policy by past and present Philippine governments. By 1995, according to the National Statistics Office’s Survey of Overseas Filipinos (NSO SOF), there were 91 female OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) for every 100 male OFWs. This figure steadily increased to a peak of 102 female OFWs per 100 male in 2006. To date, Filipina OFWs still make up more than half (around 60%) of the stock estimate of OFWs, outnumbering male OFWs especially in the service sector, with 135, 168 female new hires to 19,367 to male new hires in 2010.

Far beyond the absolute numbers, however, are the very specific vulnerabilities that Filipina OFWs migrant workers face because they are women – sexual discrimination and other gender-specific abuses, exploitation and violence – and also in the sorts of work where they tend to predominate. This is especially the case when Filipina OFWs migrate for work that is in line with their traditionally-defined reproductive roles in society (i.e., domestic workers, nurses, caregivers, etc).

The current onslaught of the global economic and financial crisis further intensifies abuses and violations faced by Filipina OFWs. The global crisis makes them more vulnerable to illegal recruitment, human/sex trafficking, criminalization (of the irregular/undocumented), and tolerate abuses at work. The worsening crisis conceives for them more desperate conditions, locally and abroad.

 The US-NATO-led wars of aggression in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region are forcing millions of migrants, especially women, to choose between a rock and a hard place – to either flee the conflicts or face unemployment and poverty in the Philippines, or to stay at risk of their well-being and lives in exchange for income. In these conditions, Filipina OFWs become victims not only of violence and war but also of labor and human rights abuses.

In strife-torn Syria, for instance, almost 100% of OFWs are women domestic workers. Of the estimated 17,000 Filipino population there, more than 95% are irregular or undocumented, with reports of more being trafficked into the country despite the escalating conflict. A mere 6% of Filipina OFWs have so far been repatriated by the government while the death toll is now dangerously close to 6,000.

Today, marching with us are some of the brave Filipina OFWs who survived the US-NATO war of aggression in Syria. They continue to call for the immediate repatriation of thousands more of Filipina domestic workers in Syria. They also unite with other sectors of society in calling to a stop to US wars of aggression in the MENA region and opposing intensified deployment of US troops in the Philippines and elsewhere in the goal to gain a stronghold in the Asia Pacific region for the imperialist greed for oil.

Today, Migrante International marches with them in solidarity with the women’s struggle for freedom, democracy and national sovereignty and against imperialist plunder and military intervention. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we salute and honor them and other Filipina OFWs around the world.###