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Depression, workers’ rights and protection tackled in symposium

20 January 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Alegre says sadness is not depression, but prolonged sadness could be

A clinical psychologist has warned against using the word “depression” to describe sadness because it might hinder the determination of whether a person is really depressed and needs to see a medical specialist.

Brenda R. Alegre, lecturer in gender studies at the University of Hong Kong and who has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Santo Tomas, told migrant workers they should watch out for how they view themselves, the future and the world around them.

She spoke in a symposium on depression and gender discrimination held on Jan 19 by the Social Justice for Migrant Workers and DOMOHK at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office conference hall in Wanchai.

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Other guest speakers were Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Devi Novianti, corporate communications officer of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Alegre said depression is a medical condition that is diagnosed by a psychiatrist based on a symptom and is different from sadness, a natural emotion that a person can experience. Even so, prolonged sadness may be symptomatic of depression, she said.

“We have to give ourselves the right to be sad, pero we should understand hanggang kailan tayo talaga malulungkot? Can we really be sad the whole day? How about tomorrow?” Alegre asked.
She said when a person worries about so many concerns over a period and is in a negative mood, he has depression and one thing that can help him fight depression is by restraining his mind.

Alegre urged migrant workers to be resilient in the face of adversities, and so should their extended families back home. She said the life of OFWs is about toiling and enduring depression while their dependents are having a good life. The workers should learn to change such a situation, she said.
Tamayao says bilateral agreements with host countries help ensure protection of OFWs
WelOf  Virsie Tamayao said in her speech, said the Philippines has 64 bilateral agreements with countries hosting OFWs to ensure promotion of employment and protection of the rights and welfare of migrant workers and their families.

She said protection of the rights of migrant workers is enshrined in the United Nations “International Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families” to which the Philippines is a signatory.

The signatory states are mandated to implement policies that comply with the convention, in particular, laws protecting OFWs from illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
She said under Hong Kong labor laws, migrant workers are protected although many workers are not aware of their rights so they do not stand up against abusive employers.

“Dito sa Hong Kong napakasuwerte kasi very clear ang kanilang employment ordinance,” Tamayao said.

She said the Philippine government has adopted policies to harmonize labor relationships through such activities such as the pre-deployment orientation seminars that seek to bridge cultural differences between the country and the host countries.

These measures are intended to strengthen protection of the rights of migrant workers, she said.
Participants show happy faces after the semina
The EOC’s Novianti provided the symposium participants with a quick review of workplace risks for female migrant workers such as sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, disability discrimination, race discrimination and other abuses such as slave-like treatment.
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