By Merlie “Milet” B. Mendoza, advisor to Caritas Manila
Migration is a key issue in my country. Filipino nurses, caregivers, domestic helpers, entertainers, engineers, teachers and construction workers are present in all corners of the globe. There are several million documented overseas Filipino workers.
Even if the phenomenon has, on the one hand, tremendously improved the economic well-being of many Filipinos as well as the country; on the other hand, it has resulted in a depressing social hazard. Countless mothers have left their children to go work abroad, poor women are taken advantage of and often become victims of exploitation, violence and sexual slavery.
But the outward exodus will continue for as long as the opportunity for a better life is not available at home. Those who can’t escape poverty and develop their capacities where they are, will look for it elsewhere. The situation is similar in many Asian and African countries.
I believe that the concept of human security and development is important to consider when talking about migration and that is why I decided to focus on these concepts in my key note address to the conference.
Human security is a policy framework primarily advocated by the UN, which includes the fundamental freedoms – freedom from want, freedom for fear and freedom from humiliation, basic development rights like food, water and sanitation or education, physical security, the absence of threat to your life, a culture of peace and the right to political expression.
Working in peacebuilding and disaster risk reduction , I have seen that these are important factors at the origin of migration. The Philippines is often hit by disasters such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions or floods and has faced violent conflicts and political instability in some regions. The victims are usually the poor. When they are desperate, they are often forced into migration and risk to be lured into bad employment or become victims of abuse. If you have no opportunities, you are very vulnerable.
The fact that so many women face abuse and insecurity is just not acceptable. With my own experience of captivity during two months in the south of the country two years ago, I feel even more affected by the fate of these women. It is just indescribable what you go through. But there are many things we can do to prevent this and most of all, we should never give up.
Our work isn’t finished with the conference where a list of policy recommendations will be established. Any policy is only good in so far as it brings concrete positive change on the lives of the people it seeks to target. At the end of the day, what is critical to ask is: How will I translate this new-found knowledge and fresh insights in improving peoples’ lives?