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Opinion

Issues and questions for our Filipino women migrants

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas - The Freeman

The Philippine government will engage with the UN Committee on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) for its ninth cycle reporting, starting with a country report this month on the state of human rights of all women in the country including Filipino women migrants.

In line with this, yesterday, December 4, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and the Center for Migrant Advocacy conducted an initial consultation with Filipino women migrant workers to gather their feedback and know more about their situation most especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the consultation asked the participants about their views related to the following four areas of concern in the promotion, protection, and fulfillment of women migrants’ human rights, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic:

First, access to information on government programs and services in the country and onsite (in the countries of destination) for OFWs and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The participants were asked to answer the following questions to gauge the extent of reach of information on these issues:

a.) How aware are the OFWs and families of government programs and services related to COVID-19 pandemic such as the DOLE Akap, OWWA’s FAST (Food, Airport, Shelter, and Transportation); finance assistance to COVID-infected OFWs, repatriation assistance by Department of Foreign Affairs to cite a few of these programs and services?

b.) Is the information easily accessible and understandable to OFWs generally and particularly to women migrants (especially migrant domestic workers) who may have limited access to connectivity and other platforms to access information? Where do they usually get or source the information from?

c.) Are women OFWs able to participate in the various town hall meetings organized by government? In what way, in what capacities?

Two, to determine if government programs and services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic are gender-sensitive and responsive, the following were asked:

a.) Addressing the gender-gap in access to communication—if availment entails online connectivity –how are women migrants enabled to apply?

b.) Addressing health and reproductive health rights of women migrants – do government programs take these into consideration – for example pregnant OFWs, lactating OFWs, provision of sanitary pads for women OFWs in quarantine facilities?

Third, access to justice.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, violations of the rights of OFWs, particularly women OFWs have exacerbated. They have become more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, as mobility and connectivity with others are further restricted.

These questions:

a.) Are various government agencies in the Philippines and the Philippine Missions (embassy/consulate/POLO) onsite fully equipped in terms of material and human resources to ensure continuous and uninterrupted service to OFWs and families? Are hotlines working? Are the websites working? Are there government personnel they can talk to during emergency situation and not only answering machine or standard reply if by email?

b.) For actual requests for assistance in the Philippines and onsite cases, can OFWs and families be assured of timely assistance, 24/7?

Fourth, additional recommendations to promote gender-equality and empowerment of women migrant workers.

Participants were asked:

a.) Have they heard of the provision of the Magna Carta of Women on Gender-Focal Point officers at Missions where there is high concentration of women OFWs? What is the relevance of this?

b.) Do migrants know what and who the Gender Ombuds is?

c.) Have they heard of the 16 essentials for quality provisions of services to Women OFW victim-survivors of gender-based violence?

During the consultation, many recommended that government extend COVID-related assistance/support to the indigent and mentally stressed among the returned migrants.

To our migrants reading these issues and questions, please send and share your situation and comments with us.

cballescas@yahoo.com

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