Our impact, their voices

Life experiences help Filipino workers avoid pitfalls of migration

Two women who have survived violence and discrimination help Overseas Filipino Workers and their families through the Migrant Worker Resource Centre.

Feature | Quezon City, Philippines | 17 May 2023
QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES - While battling COVID-19, Elsilyn Nitura was still doing her job as a migrant domestic worker. It was not her first time working abroad. She left the Philippines right after college in 1991, following her three sisters who were also Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“My salary was not enough, and my sisters need help. Working in another country was not easy. There were many struggles and hardships. I also experienced being treated as a slave,” Elsilyn recalled.

According to Elsilyn, she was not allowed to sit on a chair, watch television, and eat the same food as her employer abroad. She can only eat half a fish because the fridge was locked. She also worked long hours, often getting-up at 1:00 a.m. to bathe and begin her day.

Elsilyn at the Migrant Worker Resource Centre. Quezon City, Philippines, 04/2023. © Minette Rimando/ILO
Elsilyn returned to the Philippines to start her own family, but in 2015 she decided to work overseas again to give her six children a better future. She left her job as a teacher to be a migrant domestic worker. When her oldest started working as police officer in 2021 and after fighting COVID-19 twice abroad, she chose to go home and be with her family.

“Return and reintegration were hard without enough savings. Our house was being constructed and it was difficult for me to adjust and find employment. At that time, we were still under COVID-19, so there were many limitations,” said Elsilyn.

Elsilyn began her own online business selling spring rolls and marinated fish. She also volunteered with OFW groups, which included gardening and attending seminars. Her voluntary activities connected her to the barangay (local village). At 54 years old, Elsilyn is now part of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children.

Elsilyn joined trainings and seminars organized by the Quezon City Migrant Worker Resource Centre (MRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Quezon City local government collaborates with the ILO to make its MRC services and programmes more gender-responsive, sustainable and institutionalized.

“Through these trainings, we learned about our rights as OFWs. I was able to help five abused and maltreated OFWs. They were rescued abroad and returned home,” Elsilyn shared.

Aloha works as an OFW Helpdesk Officer assisting migrant workers and their families. Quezon City, Philippines, 04/2023. © Minette Rimando/ILO
As an OFW Helpdesk Officer in Quezon City, 60-year-old Aloha Gozon has also been assisting migrant workers. She admitted that she is a survivor of violence against women (VAW) who had been a mentally and emotionally battered wife for 30 years. This was in addition to her yearning and separation from her daughter after she remarried and had two more sons.

“Because of my experience for 30 years as a battered wife, I know how to handle those who have been abused and maltreated. I can relate with OFWs who come to us with family issues,” said Aloha.

However, the majority of OFWs leave the country without enough knowledge of the challenges abroad. Aloha admitted that many OFWs and their families are unprepared.

“It is important for OFWs to have knowledge of what they will experience. The MRC and the ILO assisted us with reintegration services and pre-employment orientation. OFWs are aware of groups or agencies they can approach,” Aloha cited.

Aside from trainings, Aloha stressed the need for medical and livelihood assistance with regular monitoring since not all OFWs are successful abroad.

ILO Assistant Director-General and Asia-Pacific Regional Director Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa visits the Quezon City Migrant Worker Resource Centre and engages in a dialogue with returned OFWs and their families. Quezon City, Philippines 04/2023. © ILO
In her recent visit to the MRC, ILO Assistant Director-General and Asia-Pacific Regional Director Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa reiterated the need to address issues of migrant workers at the community level, uphold their rights and promote decent work. “The rights of all workers should be respected and enforced. I will continue to send this message to all Asia-Pacific member States and organizations,” she said.

Part of the MRC support is funded by the European Union through the Safe and Fair Programme: Realizing women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities in the ASEAN region, led by the ILO with UN Women and in collaboration with UNODC.

The ILO-UN Women-IOM BRIDGE Programme also contributed to the initiative with the support of the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) to help governments meet its Global Compact for Migration commitments.

Overseas Filipino Workers and their families, officials from the Quezon City Migrant Worker Resource Centre and the ILO call to stop violence against women.