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Forum on women empowerment held at PCG

06 December 2023

 

Revote, Saret and Licaros were the forum's main speakers 

“Know your value" or, isipin naman ninyo ang sarili ninyo.” (Have more concern for yourselves).

This, according to Deputy Consul General Germinia Usudan, is the most important thing that women, especially migrant domestic workers, should bear in mind as they navigate through life abroad.

Usudan made the remarks as she wrapped up a three-hour public forum titled “Juana, Knows” held earlier today at the Philippine Consulate, in observance of the 18-day Campaign to End Violence Against Women.

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Usudan said this was her first takeaway from the forum, which featured three lawyers who spoke on women’s rights and powers, as well as RA 9272 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 : Vice Consul Alan G. Revote, who heads the Consulate’s civil registry and legal section; Consul Paul Saret, head of assistance to nationals, and Anna Theresa Licaros, banker and women's rights advocate.

Taking off on Licaros’ tips on how women could empower themselves, Usudan said it is also important for migrants to have a strong support system, or at least have someone to confide in when the going gets rough; for them to know their rights; and lastly, to have all their important personal information or data at their fingertips or within reach.

Licaros said organizing important informations means having valuable records such as passports, birth certificates, bank account numbers so that in case a problem occurs in the family, the woman would be able to produce these as needed.

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Equally important, she said, is to know one’s network, meaning, who to call or contact should the need arises. An example of this is the Department of Social Welfare Department official in their locality.

But beyond these, she said migrant women should have goals, and they should write them down so they do not forget. 

They should also learn new skills like cooking or understanding new technology as these are things that will never go away and will serve them in good stead in future. 

Lastly, they should find meaning in their work, whatever it is, as this will prevent them from feeling tired or resentful.

Licaros and her list of do's for women migrants

Revote for his part explained to the audience that the VAWC is meant to protect women and their children against an abusive sexual or romantic partner, whatever their gender.

Under the law, such acts of violence can be physical, sexual, psychological, or economic.

Physical abuse includes assault or any kind of actual harm committed against a woman or her children.

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Sexual violence may include forced sex  during marriage, rape, and even online sexual exploitation of children.

Psychological violence refers to inflicting mental torture, such as stalking, abusing the victims’ pets, or destroying things that have a sentimental value to them.

The last, economic violence, pertains to making the woman financially dependent on her spouse or partner, such as preventing her from working or handling money.

Victims of any of these acts can go to their barangay or the courts for relief. 

The first step is to seek a barangay protection (BPO) which should be granted within 24 hours, but is valid for only 15 days.  

The next step is to go to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) or Municipal Trial Court (MTC) and ask for a temporary protection order (TPO) which can be granted ex parte, or with only the victim present. This order is enforceable anywhere in the country but is valid for only 30 days.

The final relief is a permanent protection order (PPO) which either court can grant following a hearing when both sides are represented. This order has no deadline and is enforceable throughout the country. 

The PPO can also be accompanied by other orders such as preventing the offending party from going near the victims or harassing them; as well as granting restitution or compensation to the offended party. 

Revote said all these reliefs can be sought at the same time if the victim/s want the protection order to become permanent or prevent a gap in their implementation.

Saret said many migrant women turn to the Consulate for help or advise because the physical separation from their spouses often leads to infidelity. This in turn, leads to all sorts of problems for migrant women who end up becoming the family’s sole breadwinner. Many choose to overstay, or resort to stealing or money laundering to make ends meet.

In extreme cases, the debt-ridden or lovelorn migrant becomes depressed, and commits suicide. Saret said that this year alone, there have been five recorded suicides of Filipino migrant workers.


DCG Usudan (in checkered jacket) join the speakers and the 2 welfare officers

Saret said social welfare officer Rem Marcelino of the Migrant Workers Office asked him to relay to the audience a few pieces of advice that would help them survive Hong Kong while living in harmony with their family back home.

The first of these is to make their spouses or partner understand the reason why they decided to go abroad, and how difficult this decision has been for all of them.

The second is to be mindful of a need for a nurturing relationship, meaning, keeping in constant communication with their partner. 

Saret said that since his own family is in the Philippines, he always makes sure to check on his wife during meal times. He also avoids getting angry with his children during the rare times that they are all together so this does not leave a lasting impression on them.

Lastly, migrant mothers should always check on the children they left behind to make them feel they have not been abandoned. Corollary to this, the children should be made to understand that their mothers decided to live and work away from them so they could have a better future.

Also at the forum were Marcelino and OWWA welfare officer Marilou Sumalinog.

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