Move On and Improve Your Lot

moveon

THIS is a message for the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) scattered in over 200 countries around the world. I wrote it in response to one Philippine newspaper’s Editorial on how some OFWs are being “slaved” abroad.

Modern Slavery,  Philippine Star’s Editorial, dated  November 19, 2014

Overseas Filipino workers contribute much to the country’s economic growth, but even policy makers acknowledge that the OFW phenomenon has a dark underbelly. Long separations have led to broken families. Children grow up lacking one or both parents. And the OFWs themselves, particularly women, are vulnerable to abuse.

The OFW phenomenon is a major factor in the Philippines’ ranking of 103rd out of 167 countries in the 2014 Global Slavery Index. Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation, which released the index yesterday, estimated that 261,200 Filipinos are living in conditions that constitute modern slavery.

The report defines slaves as victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced or servile marriage, forced labor and debt bondage. It noted that OFWs are often denied access to their passports and suffer sexual and physical abuse by their employers. The workers are also vulnerable to “involuntary servitude” in the sex trade in Asia and the Middle East, the report added.

Manila’s response to the problem received a better rating from the foundation, which ranked the Philippines 29th out of 167 countries in terms of protecting workers from abuse. But the report noted other areas where more measures can be undertaken to protect women and children from various forms of abuse, whether overseas or within the Philippines.

On May 30 this year, eight women who were locked in their room on the second floor of a warehouse where they worked in Pasay City died when a fire engulfed the building. Shortly before the fire, the International Trade Union Confederation released the Global Rights Index, which ranked the Philippines alongside Cambodia, India, Saudi Arabia and other countries where workers’ rights are not guaranteed.

In May 2012 in Butuan City, 18 female workers of a department store also died when they were trapped in a burning building. Whether abroad or in their own land, Filipino workers need more protection from modern slave traders.

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It is high time to accept the sad reality that Filipinos, whether overseas or at home, remain to be victims of “modern slavery.”

All I can say is for each and every Filipino to thrive and fare better the next time. There is always hope despite the frustrations and dismay. It is only when one stays forever in a deplorable situation that this reality is hopeless because when one allows something bad to continuously happen in his/her world, then there is no chance at all for him/her to see light! Move on, I say, and improve your lot!

About Author

Freda Editha O. Contreras
Writing is a God-given talent which I try to utilize the good way. I used it as a means to earn a living, my very first job after graduating from college, when I got hired as an Information Writer by the Provincial Government of Antique through Governor Enrique A. Zaldivar in January 1982. By profession, I am a Registered Nurse, and was only able to practice it when I got recruited to work in a private hospital in Kuwait. This was in November 1987 and since then I have been living in Kuwait, now retired since June 2002. Because of my knack in writing I got hired in 1994 to write for Kuwait Times and later became an Editor of 'Pinoy News' a weekly supplement of KT. In March 1996 I published the very first independent Filipino newspaper in Kuwait and the Gulf bannered as Pinoy Expat News or PEN. The paper lasted for only 10 weekly issues. This was followed by another publication and came out first as an insert of an ad paper and later as a separate tabloid. I used then 'Pinoy News' as it was my idea the first time it was used for Kuwait Times. This again failed and produced only three weekly issues. I then turned to the Internet and in 1999 I got hired as a Contributing Editor of Suite101.com, a writers' portal on the web. The last of my articles was published December 31, 2002 but my topic 'Overseas Filipino Workers' was still visible until January 2006. All the 38 articles I wrote have been compiled into a book which I published in August 2007. I discovered blogging in 2006 but was not really serious about my writing. I wrote according to my whim. Having this blog under my own domain name is now a welcome development and I plan to concentrate again in writing. As is commonly said: "A writer will always be a writer." http://fredacontreras.com/

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