Fighting for Migrants’ Rights as Students

By Aaron Tolentino, Patricia Jose, Anton Reintar. Aaron, Patricia and Anton are interns of CMA who are junior students of Diplomacy and International Relations in the Ateneo de Manila University

Did you know, the month of March is recognized as International Women’s Month? Recently, the MRT and LRT offered women free rides to commemorate International Women’s Month. Malls and shopping boutiques take advantage of this too, as they offer discounts on their fashion, makeup, and skincare items. But while we’re mostly able to enjoy these in the Philippines, not all women get to do so, not because they don’t have the budget, but because they’re not here.

At least 80% of all migrant Household Service Workers are women. These women are often exposed to unfavorable conditions that threaten their lives and their safety. The conditions in the Philippines, however, leave them with no other choice but to improve their financial situation and economic standing. Despite the complex bureaucracy and the burdens of the seemingly endless requirements (e.g. placement fees) thousands of women are forced to find employment abroad.

Now, you might be wondering, what can an ordinary person do to help with this drastic situation. Say you’re a student, what actions do you think you can undertake to help?

Being a student shouldn’t prevent one from lending a hand. There are plenty of opportunities for them to help our female migrant workers. Volunteering for an organization that protects these workers is one such way of helping. By being a volunteer, you get to interact with other people who also wish to help, and you get to interact with our OFWs themselves. Volunteers also help raise awareness about the pertinent issues concerning female migrant workers. Simple tasks like creating infographics that summarize the list of required documents OFWs need, or pamphlets that neatly show statistics about Filipino women working abroad can go a long way in alleviating some of the distress that they face.

We must make the information accessible to Filipinos, especially those who may not even be aware of their rights and privileges as migrant workers. It is vital to establish this as early as the pre-departure process, so that they are well-informed and able to defend themselves, should the need arise.

In the Center for Migrant Advocacy, we aim to promote the rights of overseas Filipino workers and their families and empower migrants through our programs and services.

To sum it all up, we continue to support these causes because they remain to be prevalent issues, especially since the Philippines is a developing nation. We need to call for a more effective implementation of our labor laws. Supporting foundations, either by donating in kind or devoting your time, will make a huge difference in helping our migrant workers, especially our female migrant workers, who remain vulnerable to violence and abuse. We can say that this volunteerism will eventually go beyond creatives, as we aim to work with, and for the Filipinos.