Red Cross Focuses On
Migration: The Women Household Service Workers
With the problems of migrant workers mounting, the Red Cross Movement convened to take the first step towards helping win the battle to protect millions of migrant workers against abuses and exploitation, particularly women household service workers (HSWs) because they are most vulnerable.
Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Richard J. Gordon said the PRC, working jointly with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), brought together both labor sending and receiving countries with the goal of forging an international agreement to undertake measures that would reduce the vulnerability of women HSWs.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement held the “Manila Conference on Migration 2015 Focus on the Most Vulnerable: Women Household Service Workers” on may 12 to 13 at the Diamond Hotel Manila.
The dialogue was attended by delegates from the National Societies of Asian countries and those from the Middle East and North Africa Region. Officials of concerned government agencies, international organizations and non-government organizations also attended.
Gordon pointed out that the worsening plight of women HSWs has become a cause of concern for the Red Cross Movement, which is committed to alleviating the suffering of the most vulnerable, hence the PRC and IFRC has organized the migration dialogue, the first ever of its kind to be held here.
“This is very close to my heart. The Red Cross has helped a lot of people, including marginalized women migrant workers who make a lot of sacrifices just to give better lives for their families. They endure separation from their families, they cannot supervise the rearing of their own children and they end up being left by their husbands. Abroad, they are prone to abuses, beating, rape and other indignities. They are isolated, living alone in household with different cultures, different beliefs and practices, and even speaking a different language. Some of them don’t even have a room of their own. Their passports and cellphones are taken away, further aggravating their isolation. Because of this, those who are working in countries where there are ongoing wars have to put their lives on the line when they make attempts to escape,” Gordon said.
Gordon pointed out that with the dramatic increase in the number of migrant workers seeking better job opportunities abroad in an effort to make ends meet and provide better lives for their families, the incidence of exploitation and other abusive practices by employers and recruitment agencies also multiplied.
Statistics showed that worldwide, there is an estimated 232 million migrant workers living outside their home countries, one out of five of which are engaged in domestic work. Of these domestic workers, some 43.2 million of them are women.
The number of migrant workers, especially women household service workers, has become so significant. The problem has become so big that we have to start where we can win. The conference brought together Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from sending and receiving countries with the aim of establishing protocols that would guide the Red Cross Movement in extending assistance to women migrant workers. We aim to come up with measures on how we can engage our governments so we can better protect these most vulnerable and provide dignity and respect for them,” he said.
For his part, Elhadj As Sy, IFRC Secretary-General, said the organization is committed to supporting all migrants regardless of their legal status.
“All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and afforded protection and access to services. “However, migrant workers are consistently exploited and denied access to their basic rights. These abuses are too often covered by silence and, worse, met with total indifference. If we have to make a difference, we must break the silence and halt the indifference. I salute the partnership among National Red Cross and Crescent Societies to pave the migrant ways with dignity,” he said.
Gordon, who had over the years came to the assistance of troubled overseas Filipino workers, first broached the subject of the Red Cross Movement helping migrant workers with Jakob Kellenberger in 2011 during an international conference in Geneva. He also discussed it with Dr. Mohammad Al-Maadheed of the Qatar Red Crescent.
Four years later, the Doha Dialogue on Migration 2014 was organized. The event was hosted by Qatar Red Crescent and included key external partners, ranging from international NGOs to government and civil society representatives, who joined the Red Cross and Red Crescent to address the challenges of labor migration and expatriate workers.
That May 12 - 13 Manila Conference on Migration was the third in the series of migration-related events under the umbrella of the Doha Dialogue on Migration 2014. /MP