We mark this year’s International Women’s Day in specific recognition of our female overseas Filipino workers.
Economic hardships and the desire to provide a better life for their loved ones are what drive all overseas workers away from the comforts of home. We imagine that if they had better options, they would not consider leaving their families for years to work in an unfamiliar environment. This will always be the failure of government, across several administrations.
Changing this should always be government’s goal.
Shunning traditional role assignments that men should go out and earn money while the women stay home and take care of the children, Filipino women venture out of the country and well out of their comfort zones.
They have to make the unnatural gesture of wresting themselves from their family, sometimes to care for the children of strangers.
They face not just loneliness but real risks especially in some cultures where women are regarded as inferior, or weak, or dispensable.
We only have to look to the story of Joanna Demafelis and all others who fell victim to abuse and who were tragically unable to escape or fight.
We recognize their strength, mourn their loss and get angry at the injustice they met. What can we do next? How can we do better? This is something foreign affairs and labor officials must ponder. Concrete and sustained action to protect our women workers will make March 8 less of a token day and show the rest of the world we are serious about looking out for our own.