Gender Rights Training for Filipina Domestic Workers

Philippines NEW YORK -- When Norma’s quadriplegic employer asked her to use her hands instead of a washcloth to soap and wash certain parts of his body, she was unsure whether this was par for the course or something else altogether. When Marina ’s employer demanded massages, she wondered if this was part of domestic work in the US. Anna, on the other hand, didn’t quite know how to respond to her employer’s predilection for showing her porn websites.

Because of these and other situations encountered by domestic workers, GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance and the Damayan Migrant Workers Association have initiated a School on Gender Rights for Filipino Domestic Workers. Funded by the New York Foundation, the project is the first of its kind nationally and historically. The first session will be on April 4th, at the North Star Fund Office, 520 Eight Avenue, New York , NY 10018. Those interested are requested to register either with GABNet at 212 592 3507 or with Damayan at 212 564 6057.

 “It is a landmark and collaborative project created by immigrants and second generation Filipina-Americans,” said Catherine Mercedes Judge, coordinator of the GABNet NY/NJ chapter. “When it comes to gender rights, violence against women and gender discrimination, we are not so different from our mothers, aunts, even grandmothers. We have a shared experience on this issue."

Olivia Quinto, GABNet National Education Director, will lead the first session. “From the first batch of participants, we will select those with the potential to be peer counselors." she said. "They will receive further training from Dr. Annalisa Enrile, who is an associate clinical professor of the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.”

Ms. Quinto explained that this was to ensure that the domestic workers were empowered to deal with issues of gender rights themselves. “It is an expression of respect on our part that we consider them perfectly capable of tackling such issues once they are in receipt of knowledge and training.”

Report to Be Released

At the conclusion of the two-part training, Damayan intends to release its two-year study on domestic workers from the Philippines. The report is based on a qualitative survey, in-depth interviews of and focus group discussions with about 200 domestic workers from the Philippines. A joint project of Damayan and the Urban Justice Center, the report was prepared with the assistance of the renowned journalist and novelist Ninotchka Rosca.

The report will include an analysis of the impact of the Philippine Labor Export Policy on migration, antecedents of domestic workers in Philippine history and a set of recommendations for policy makers.

Those interested in obtaining copies of the report should call Damayan at the above number or send a letter to Damayan Migrant Workers Association, 406 West 40th Street 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10018.

The Damayan Migrant Workers Association is the largest organization of Filipino domestic workers in the US. In its six years of existence, it has helped a dozen workers recover unpaid wages; it is in the leadership of a six-organization coalition of domestic workers pushing for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The bill is anticipated to pass the New York legislature this year. Damayan hit the headlines recently when a member, Marichu Baoanan, sued a former Philippine ambassador to the United Nations for trafficking and peonage.

GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance is a 20-year-old US-Philippine all-women solidarity mass organization. It has had a long history of advocating for the gender rights of Filipinas and Filipina-Americans. Its Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of Filipinas led to the passage of the International Marriage Broker Regulatory Act by the US Congress.

Category: Advocacy Posted on  16 Mar 2009

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