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Regional Programme

South East Asia Sub Regional Women’s Programme on Women and Migration

South East Asia Sub Regional Women’s Programme on Women and MigrationOctober 24-27, 2008
Manila, Philippines

The Programme was held from 24-31 October 2008, at the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and the Bay View Hotel, Manila, Philippines. Ten (10) young women from the National SCMs of Myanmar, Indonesia,Timor Leste, Philippines, Hong Kong and Korea participated in this programme. The program was divided into two parts, the first part was an orientation on women migrant issues, the GFMD and Biblical Theological reflections on migration and in the second part the participants participated in the IAMR through different activities.

The Goals of the programme were:

South East Asia Sub Regional Women’s Programme on Women and MigrationMs. Connie Bragas-regalado from Migrante International took a session on Women and Migration from the Asian context – A Critical analysis. Connie was the most important resource person for this session to explain the plight of the migrant workers, especially the female migrant workers who herself was a domestic helper in Hong Kong for around 10 years. Connie gave an overall understanding of the issue of migrant workers from her own experiences and explained the labor export policy of the government who decided to export people as migrant and failed to provide decent jobs to the people in the home country—Philippines and elsewhere.

She said, as the country’s situation deteriorate by unjust structure to elevate poverty, corruption, deregulation and monopoly more and more Filipinos are forced to migrate to other countries in search of livelihood. Its an alarming situation for all of us, that today the female migrants from the Philippines have topped the male migrants and the figured has reached to 179.006 female migrants for 123.668 male migrants. This also shows that the situation of women is becoming more vulnerable day by day and they are left with no choice but accept the exploitative way of survival. Connie, shared many incidents of rape, physical assault, mysterious deaths and inhuman working condition of the Filipino women migrant workers. She said for the Philippine government, migration is not a problem and does not indicate deeper social problem—it is a natural phenomenon and a human right, a viable option to anyone who wants to improve his or her life. The state appears as merely managing the natural movement of persons. The top export is the Filipino migrant women—the wife, mother, sister- whose only option out of poverty and joblessness is to work abroad whether as entertainer or as domestic helper. Its small wonder why the exploitation and oppression of OFWs has become more intense and more unbridled. This session was very much helpful to understand the female migrant workers especially the Filipino migrants. This was also an eye opening for some participants, as they were told how badly the women are treated by the receiving and sending countries.

Ms. Jazz Lumang, the executive director of IBON Foundation took a session on Critical analysis on GFMD. She gave a clear understanding of GFMD and the interlink of the Neoliberal globalization and GFMD and how it implements the policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization. She said migrants represents 2.9 percent of the global population of these almost half (48.6%) are women. Today the remittances by the migrants has reached to US$226 trillion. The real objectives of the GFMD is to continuously offer the neo liberal policies to various countries and systematic labor export for “development” equal to commodificaiton. The significance of GFMD to the Philippines is labor export programme. The impact of the GFMD to migrants are migrants’ wage, service, employment protection and rights are always under attack. In neo liberal globalization the interest of business and profits are given more importance over the rights and welfare of the people. She said, our stand is we don’t want GFMD because this is an instrument of neo liberal globalization to use remittance for “development”, which does not answer the roots of forced migration and overall it doesn’t uphold the rights, wellbeing and interest of migrants. Jazz’s session could enabled the participants to understand the real agenda behind GFMD and the future consequences of the labor export policy.

The Bible study was led by Ms. Liza B.Lamis, National Council of Churches in the Philippines on the theme Today’s Sarah and Hagar in Dialogue. Liza’s Bible study was from the context of the Philippines. She said, the phenomenon of the overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) 60% of whom are women, underlines the class division between first world, rich women and third world poor women. In re reading Hagar’s story in view of the life experiences of OFW, the shared oppression of rich and poor women are brought to light as well as patriarchy in dividing women -thus continually perpetuating its self. She raised some of the thought provoking questions like what are the possibilities of a dialogue that would bring a fuller life to these women and their children. How can the Hagars and Sarahs of today support each other and reject the working of patriarchy? The Bible Study on the said topic was a relevant theological reflection from the context of the female migrant workers in the Philippines and other developing countries.

For the Exposure the participants visited Tatalon, the Urban Poor community in Quezon City. Tatalon is the living example of the neo liberal globalization in the Philippines. The population of Tatalon is around 110,000, and they live in dire poverty. The exposure to this community was shocking for all to see people living in cubicles with no sanitation facilities. The living condition of people is inhuman. The community leader said, Government doesn’t pay any attention to the misery of this community rather there is always threat from the government of demolishing our houses.

According to the community people they came to this area and settled since 1960s. but they don’t own the land and very recently MERALCO an Electricity Company is claiming the village and guards are employed to keep an eye on people. MERALCO provides electricity to many in the city, yet the people of Tatalon live in darkness in spite of having the presence of the company they do not have access to the electricity. Our group interacted with the women leaders of Samakana – Samahan Ng Maralitang Karbabai Hans Nagkakaisa (Association of United Urban Poor Women) community in Tatalon and they explained about their suffering. Their husbands are migrant workers in Saudi and other countries struggling to send money back to their families to keep them alive. Since the government doesn’t help them in anyways so the people especially the women organized themselves and form this association in the year 1997 with one chapter as the Day Care Centre for the street children. Today it has 7 chapters, serving the community in the areas of health, and hygiene, education, micro financing for small business and organize women to create awareness and empower women to resist Violence against women.

The intention of the exposure to this community was to expose the realities of the abject poverty people live with and the disparity between the rich few and poor many. The widening gap between these two communities is the example of the liberalization, deregulation and the insensitivity of the irresponsible government towards her people. participants were shocked to see the living condition of the people. Philippines is also a place for the skyscrapers shopping malls. As the shopping malls mushrooms the slums spreads along with it. After seeing the situation and listening from the women leaders the group was able to understand the situation that how they are forced to leave their country and migrate for their livelihood. There is no good news to the poor in this community by the government but impose them to accept the labor export policy and leave the country to survive their family as well as the government through the remittance.