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Opinion

Policy gaps in women migrant workers’ protection

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

I was invited last week by Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon and the Institute of Politics and Governance (IPG) to a community validation-presentation of the IPG’s initiative to scan local policies that protect women migrant workers.

The IPG, in partnership with the UN Women Safe and Fair Philippines Programme and the Office of Councilor Dizon, has been working to contribute to making labor migration safe and fair for all women in the country. In 2020, the IPG through its Safe and Fair program conducted a study that looked into the intersections between migration and violence against women (VAW). The IPG aimed to identify the policies and programs of local government units in selected areas including Cebu City. The one I attended last March 1 was part of the series of activities that aim to advance at the local level the rights and welfare of women migrant workers.

This is a timely yet often-overlooked topic compared to the more exciting news about war and conflict or the pandemic. In fact, migrant workers have been severely affected by pandemic and wars, with Asia’s overseas migrant workers being the first to lose their jobs. Others are exposed to harsh conditions but still hang on to their jobs knowing that life back home in a pandemic-battered economy can be harsher.

IPG’s presentation revealed that the cities covered by the research, namely Marikina, Angeles, Urdaneta, Bacolod, Cebu and Davao, have existing policies pursuant to national policies related to migration and violence against women. IPG sees this as basis for an enabling policy environment toward the goal of protecting women migrant workers.

Cebu City, for example, does not fall short in the number and quality of ordinances or policies related to migration and women’s rights protection. These are Ordinance No. 2163 (Implementing the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act), Ordinance No. 1666 which created the Cebu City Women’s and Family Affairs Commission, Ordinance No. 1881 or the Gender and Development Code of Cebu City, and Ordinance No. 2431 which institutionalized the End Violence Against Women and Children Fund in the city. Last year, the Cebu City Council also passed an ordinance authored by Councilor Dizon that would streamline services for OFWs.

The IPG, however, observed that local policies are not informed by data due to the absence of systematic data collection on gender-based violence against women migrant workers. It likewise observed that while programs and services are in place, these lack coherence in implementation. The VAW reporting forms do not take into account women’s migration behavior and the role of civil society organizations, suggesting the lack of multi-sectoral collaboration in the entire referral system.

A major stumbling block that the IPG found is limited resources and staff capacity. At the end of the day, the effectivity of these policies rests with the leadership at City Hall. Regardless of how an ordinance looks good on paper, if the executive lacks political will and bias for actions that protect the vulnerable and less-empowered sectors of society, then there will be wide gaps in policy and implementation.

I think it’s time for Cebu City to have a woman leader at the helm of City Hall, especially one who has a track record in sectoral coordination and cooperation on the issue of women and children’s rights and welfare.

POLITICS

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