DOMESTIC WORKER’S FORUM

By: Juliet Ugay

The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) held a forum at SCWO on Sunday the 19th of June 2016, in celebration of International Domestic Worker’s Day.

At the forum several important topics were discussed: the live-out option for Domestic Workers, the announcement of the Indonesian government to send zero Domestic Workers abroad in in 2017, and the zero placement fees for Myanmar Domestic Workers.

The forum also addressed the ratification of C189, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers.

The session was attended by many Domestic Workers (DW), as well as HOME staff and press. Three Domestic Workers spoke at the forum, including yours truly, Juliet Ugay from the Philippines, Indonesian Novia Arluna and Myanmar national Moe Moe Than.

I, Juliet, spoke about the live out option for Domestic Workers, its advantages and disadvantages, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) and the Overseas Worker’s Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Some of the advantages for domestic workers to live outside their employers house are: greater personal freedom and space, more access to help, less isolation from family and friends, fixed working hours, less control by the employer over the worker’s personal life, and more privacy. The disadvantages include the fear for increased security and safety risks, and increased cost and time for transportation. Some fear live-out DWs would be more vulnerable to bad influences, and that there could be an increased risk of pregnancy.

Novia discussed Indonesia’s announcement to stop sending domestic workers abroad in 2017. According to her, the announcement created confusion for many DWs, as Indonesia proposed a law making it obligatory for Indonesian domestic workers to live out at the same time. She mentioned recommendations to improve protection of Domestic Workers, such as ratifying ILO C189, which includes specifying more clearly items like working hours, contract, minimum wage, annual leave, sick leave, and the weekly day off. Novia also included the enactment of law in National level.

Moe Moe recalled her bad experiences at the hands of her previous employer, who abused her physically and mentally. She gave examples of their abuse, how they made her do jump like a rabbit around the living room, how they threw her food away when they were angry, and only allowed her to go to the toilet three times a day. Tree years after Moe Moe went to the police, her case is still in court (http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/couple-on-trial-for-abuse/2664324.html).

After that, Moe Moe discussed the problems Myanmar DWs face in Singapore. They include being underage, agencies overcharging, bad communication due to lack of English, abusive agents, no days off, injustice, long working hours, and women being victims of trafficking. Moe Moe expressed her concerns that that Myanmar DWs are more vulnerable, because they face communication problems due to their lack of command of English, and also their resilience in the face of abuse, which make it more difficult for them to ask for help.

Bhing Navato, the emcee of the forum, spoke further about C189, ILO’s Convention concerning decent work for Domestic Workers. She mentioned proposals covered in the Convention, which included minimum wage, weekly rest days, regulated working hours and many more that can improve jobs and lives of Domestic Workers. Singapore is among the countries in Asia who didn’t yet ratify the Convention C189.

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After the presentations by the speakers, the participants were asked to form three groups. Each group was given specific topic (live out option, zero domestic worker in 2017, zero placement fee) and was asked to discus the topic and come up with recommendations. A group representative then shared these recommendations to everyone.

The recommendations will be presented during a meeting of HOME representatives, MOM, Embassies and Domestic Workers.

Amongst the recommendations made by the forum were the following:

  • Living-out for Domestic Workers should be made optional
  • Abusive employers should not be given any more chance to hire another DW, and should be punished according to law.
  • POEA, OWWA and OEC should be made free and accessible for Overseas Filipino Workers
  • There should be zero placement fee
  • Laws should be passed governing the protection of Domestic Workers to and from receiving countries.
  • Errant agencies should be punished
  • DWs should be taught to speak English before they proceed to their place of work
  • And, most of all, Singapore should ratify ILO C189.

These are just some of the many recommendations made during the forum sessions. The DWs are hoping that these recommendations will be considered and reviewed properly by the relevant authorities.

 

 

ARE WE LOSING OUR DIGNITY?

 

By: Maria Allen Cellan

Singapore has laws to protect foreign workers, including the right to rest days or Sundays off. This is to ensure that foreign domestic workers get enough mental and physical rest. But the reality is that many domestic foreign workers don’t have regular rest days. The result of this is low socialization and low self-esteem. By depriving domestic workers of rest days, employers are taking away our right to rest and enjoy our lives once in a while. This is a deprivation that most domestic foreign workers have experienced – not to mention that many of us don’t have proper food, a proper bedroom or an hour of rest a day.

Each person should have a sense of their worth and value. But as foreign workers we tend to lose our dignity; we tend to accept that we should just do whatever our employers tell us to do even if it’s demoralizing or humiliating. In some cases, we lose ourselves, our value and our self-esteem, then we start asking questions about who we are: Are we still worthy of respect? What is our true value in this world? We must realize that dignity is essential for any relationship, especially when it comes to an employer-employee relationship.

The fact is that how we are treated affects how we feel about ourselves. Some employers treat us with the dignity and respect that we deserve, but others do not. The stigma attached to foreign workers is getting worst these days. But we shouldn’t forget that we still have power and we can control how people make us feel about our dignity. We should set our own limits on what is acceptable to us and what is not. We must learn how to stand our ground when circumstances are not tolerable any longer.

We don’t even realize the real reason why we are dressing up on our Sundays off. It’s because we are in need of respect. We sometimes feel humiliated the whole week; well, at least once a week we can be ourselves and not slaves. It seems as though we are in a market place. We buy expensive clothes, shoes and bags just to add value in our lives. But how does it add to our human value?

We let other people appraise us and tell us what are we worthy of. We sometimes think that wearing all those branded expensive things will elevate our worth. But the truth is that dignity comes from ourselves. We should learn how to love and respect ourselves. We should know that we as human beings are equal. We shouldn’t let our job define us or let people mistreat us because we are just foreign workers. Standing our ground when circumstances are not acceptable elevates our dignity.

We as foreign workers must learn the truth about ourselves. The truth is that each of us has the highest value. All of us are striving to prove it in our actions and struggles. We must have freedom from the fear of being judged and we must have the right to stand up for our dignity. As the saying goes: “Society knows freedom when its people knows dignity”.

 

Image courtesy of TWC2

ALONE

 

By Myrna

 

I can see the flower upon which my life grows,

Blooming into a rose.

I see the hope and courage

In the strength of the petals.

 

As long as I am, I will be alone

But the flower will never wilt or die.

 

As my life grows back,

I shall become strong

I shall become only dependent on one:

That one will be me.

 

I will rise with my petals high

My life as a flower will bloom and prosper as I grow.

I may not be the pick of the patch

But I am just as beautiful as the rest.

 

I will stand as one, but not a lonely soul.

The tears will be far from my smile.

 

Myrna is a resident of HOME shelter, and wrote this poem as part of a creative writing class

My foolish heart

By anonymous

I come from a poor family, that has survived anything that’s been served on its table. I am the eldest among 5 children, of whom 2 are still young. I’ve always wanted to finish my studies, but life’s complications made it impossible. At the age of 17 I was already working. Things got worse when I got pregnant at the age of 22, and unmarried. I was abused physically, mentally and verbally by the father of my kid. This made me decide to go overseas, to earn for myself and my kid since my (ex)boyfriend at that time couldn’t fully support my child, as he has vices.

I have been working in Singapore for 3 long years. I had a lot of experiences. I gained some friends, but it felt like something was missing. I knew how pathetic it is to say that I was looking for love in this foreign land, when I actually came here for work.

But those feelings you have when you’re far away from home make you long for something that would make you happy, even if it is just for the meantime. I am not looking for sex or hook ups since I’m too emotional and I don’t go for games. So I registered with this online dating application that lets you meet people around you. I talked to a lot of guys on that application, and yes, I told them what my work was. I’m fully aware that most of the men there are looking just for fun, and here I was looking for something serious.

Then I spoke to this certain guy. A foreign guy from Pakistan, who came here to study as required by his work. We rarely talked at first as I wasn’t interested in him at all. Then, it suddenly changed.

One day he asked me to see him and do something intimate. He told me that love and relationships sometimes begin with one night stands. I don’t know what came to my mind, that I accepted his invitation and met him. And believe it or not, I fell in love with him. From then on, I always spent my days off with him. Stupid as I was, we never had any confirmed relationship. And the nightmare begun, when I found out that he was married and had a child. He lied to me about his real status. I didn’t end the relationship we had, even when I found out the truth, because he told me that his marriage was forced, and he got divorced 2 years ago. But as days passed, he kept changing his ways. He seldom spoke to me, and that made me upset .

I made my move by asking one of his schoolmates what was really going on. I wasn’t prepared to hear the truth that day. I was hurt to learn that he wasn’t divorced, and he was actually playing around. I made the decision to cut off what we had. And here I am, moving on.

With all the women out there, I just want to share my experience.

I learned my lesson well, though it still hurts me whenever I remember all the things that he and I shared with each other. To love in a foreign land with so many strangers is a challenge. I just want to let you all know that you can’t make yourself complete by letting yourself be close, and fall in love with other people who are fools. Just be cautious with yourself and be aware of people who will just use you for their own benefit.

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I AM HERE

By: Bhing Navato

 I AM HERE

I can’t talk, I can’t hear..

But it doesn’t mean , I am not here.

I can’t see, but I can feel you.

My hands are my eyes, I can still see you through.

 

 

I cannot think properly.

My mind is a twister, nobody wants talks to me

But when you guide me, I can do things properly.

Just be patient , determination  is what I have in me.

 

 

I used to feel I’m useless.

I cannot do anything, I’m filled with sadness

Life is hard , I don’t see any goodness in me,

I wanted to end my life, to be free of misery

 

 

Then one day, seeing others in the same situation as me,

Made me realized how precious our lives can be.

It was not my fault, that I was born like this,

Nor an accident should be blamed for taking away my perfect bliss.

 

 

You don’t see my strength, all you see is my disability

You don’t see my willingness to prove  that I have ability

You look at me with disgust, feel annoyed out of the blue.

Laughing from a distance, make fun of everything I do.

 

 

Look into my strength, not on what you think is my weakness

I don’t need your pity, Provide me my happiness

Allow me to work so I can live my life with dignity..

Do not judge me based on my capability.

 

 

Does anybody here, who is perfect, please let me know..

Does anyone of you here who has no flows?

Take away all  discrimination

Accept  my imperfections.

 

 

Nobody is perfect, that’s who we are.

We are unique in our own ways, , even from afar.

Do not judge me base on what you see.

Look at me with equality, be compassionate with me.

 

 

I am here, you can see me.Visible clearly to your naked eyes

I am here, you can hear me.I’m loud enough to let you hear my cries.

My disability might be a disturbance to you,

But I am here, I need your acceptance too.

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This  poem was made by help desk volunteer Bhing. This was her entry at the HUMAN WRITES competition for the month of April which has a theme of “disability rights”

 

MY TWO MOTHERS

By: Juliet Ugay

I have two mothers. You might think I am being silly, but it is true, I do have two. Both women played a part in my life, and made me the woman I became. Two women, opposites in many ways, yet I love both of them dearly. I may not be very vocal about it to them, but deep in my being I do. I may not talk to them often, maybe it’s just being me, always quiet, but they are always in my mind.

Let me start with Lolita – my biological mother. My father and the people close to us often called her “Kadi” or “Lita”. My mother has always been skinny. I am not sure if having 7 kids made her that skinny, or it has to do with her metabolism. I think I got her genes, I am skinny too, or should I say slim or petite? I think that sounds better. Lolita spent most of her life being a housewife, taking care of my siblings and working at the farm raising cows, chickens and goats, and planting corn, peanuts and sweet potatoes as big as an adult head. I can’t remember the last time she actually took a holiday or went somewhere else other than our town or the nearby city. I remembered when we were little, she used to scream all the time when we were naughty. Her voice was so loud in a tiny body; even the next neighbourhood could hear it. She used to give us a pinch, or the cane if we didn’t follow her rules. I used to sneak out of the house after mealtime to escape from washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. The next thing she knew, I was at the neighbours playing “sungka” or “Chinese garter”. The moment I came home, I’d expect a punishment from her. If there was one thing I hated about my mother, it would be her smoking. It is odd because when she smokes, the part that you light up would be inside her mouth. I can’t still figure out until now how she managed to do that. It must be painful if the hot surface of the cigarette touches any part of the mouth. But yeah, that’s my mother. She can be funny at times; she’s got this unique laugh that I always love to hear. My mother has been through a lot in life and I admire her patience, and the sacrifices she has made for her family. Since I started working in Singapore, she has been taking care of my son, 10 years now. Despite her losing an eye in an accident a few years back, she still manages to pull through everything, and I thank her for that.

My other mother, Patricia, lives in Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines. Her family and friends call her “Patring” or “Alling”. She is the sister of my father’s father. She is actually my grandmother. She took me to her house in the city to live with her when I was 5 years old. At that time, I was still too young to understand things, but I remember how much I cried when I left. Maybe because it was my first time away from my family. It was hard at first, the adjustment, the people around me and the new place. But it didn’t took me long to like living in the city. Unlike my biological mother, Inang Alling as I called her, is the type who is soft spoken and has an aura of calmness. Even when she was angry, she still spoke softly. I think I acquired some of that behaviour from her. She used to sew me dresses for school and for my everyday clothing. I was her model for her craft. We used to sleep in one bed, and I loved her soft and thick blanket. She got so upset whenever I peed on the bed. We went to church every Sunday, attended black rosaries and she took me anywhere she went. She taught me about religion, but my beliefs and principles have changed over time. I enjoyed climbing up the pine tree beside the house to pick her some passion fruit or Spanish tomato fruit. We used to go pick some “chayote” for dinner, and leaves for her pet pigs. I spent most of my childhood with her. Good times, sad times, they are all part of the memories. Some of the values I learned from her got me through life.

These are just some of the many things that describe my two mothers. Inang Lolita is now 59, and Inang Alling is 76. Two women, with opposite beliefs about life, living in different worlds and yet they are both extraordinary women to me. If one day, when I have enough resources and I’m given a chance, I would like to take them somewhere nice. They deserve to get nice things and experience good things in life because they are great, they are my mothers.

Poetry to celebrate Mother’s Day

By: Bhing Navato

 

A MOTHER’S LOVE

 

Nine months in her womb, it feels amazing.

Carried me with love and care, my weight for her is nothing.

Countless “I love you my baby”, the words she always says.

Especially on the days, that problem comes her way.

 

She introduced me to everyone around her,

Happiness can be seen in her eyes; no doubt she’s a mother.

She helps my father to get the family organized,

Everybody comes to her when they need advice.

 

She works so hard; I can see all of her struggles,

Between being a wife, a mother, to her work where she juggles.

A real superwoman, who endured everything,

A prayerful mother, with lots of understanding.

 

I grew up, everything has changed in me completely,

A nice child in her eyes , now behaved differently.

Her busy schedule, gave the wrong impression to me.

I started to argue, show no respect, and do things she doesn’t want to see.

 

One day, I saw her crying while she prays.

I stood still  and stared at her, thinking what will she say.

As I turned my back, I heard she called my name.

Then she said, “My love for you will always be the same.”

 

She continued, “You came from me, my precious one.

How can I not forgive you, when everything is done?

I nursed you and brought you up with love.

How can I forget you, when you’re the best thing I ever have.”

 

My tears flowed as I realized, how blessed I am to have her

Who faithfully understands me, loves me like no other.

Everything came together into my mind as we hugged each other,

God gave me the best woman, I called her mother.

The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) is an anti-human trafficking organisation advocating empowerment and justice for all migrant workers in Singapore

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