JULY 2012 Issue 2
Our Voice for Justice and Freedom from Modern Slavery
In this issue Page 1 From the heart of Bridget Tan Page 2
From the heart of
International Domestic Workers’ Day
Founder and President
HOME (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics)
IDW Day is only the Beginning, not the End, to Modern-Day Slavery
HOME’s 8th Annual General Meeting
e are now onto our second issue of My Voice and yes there will be many more issues to come. June 2012 will be remembered as an ever busy month for HOME but most of all for domestic workers in Singapore. Among our many events, we were proud to celebrate, with millions around the world, International Domestic Worker (IDW) Day on 17th June 2012 to commemorate the first anniversary of the adoption of ILO Convention No. 189 “Decent Work for Domestic Workers”.
Mental Health Workshop
114th Philippine Independence Day Celebrations
IDW Day is only the beginning and not the end of our road to freedom, and the end to modern day slavery. For even as domestic groups around the world are shouting victory at Geneva, millions continue to be denied workers’ rights under national labour legislation. A fundamental right to change employer is impossible under the oppressive work permit system that place the domestic worker in servitude to her employer.
Even as Singapore declared a mandatory weekly rest day to domestic workers, effective January 2013, the conditions under the new law are questionable. The new law does not mandate a 24-hour rest day and neither does it apply to all existing contracts. Hence we are really disappointed that the Ministry of Manpower has not stood firm on giving recognition to domestic workers as workers. To allow the employer and the employee to agree on the hours of rest is to allow for abuse where the two parties are of unequal power. It is also unfair where new domestic workers under new contracts in 2013 get the weekly rest day whereas long serving domestic workers who have existing contracts do not. Indeed it just does not make sense to any thinking person.
A Good Turn Turns Good
My heart continues to feel the pain of the worker who sends me a message grieving over the loss her work just because she requested the employer to let her have a rest day. Let My Voice be your voice for your joys and struggles as migrant domestic workers!
Another Case of Abuse and Exlpoitation
Page 8 Page 9
Interfaith Memorial Prayer Service
The Battle for a Rest Day...Has it Finally Rested?
Power of a Song
My Time in Singapore
Page 11 Meet the My Voice Team HOME (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics) Peace Centre, 1 Sophia Road, #04-02/03, Singapore 228149 T: (65) 6348 9939 / 6836 5676 E: email@example.com
International Domestic Workers’ Day
BY RistA TAN
or the first time in the history domestic workers around the world celebrate International Domestic Workers’ Day (IDW) to commemorate the adoption of ILO Convention 189 - Decent work for Domestic Worker. An estimated 10 million domestic workers around the world are not recognized as workers under national labor legislation.
Another presentation by Juliet Ugay gave tribute to the HOME family, leaders and members of its various groups who made changes in the lives of domestic workers in Singapore. The HOME sisters staged a drama: Domestic Work is Work not Slavery”. With the adopted convention C189 there will bring hope to FDWs, they will get the same right as any other workers and be treated without discrimination. The event ended on a happy note with the Miss International Domestic Worker Contest 2012. The funny parade sent the audience rocking with non-stop laughter. More photos on Page 3
In Singapore, HOME celebrated IDW Day on the 17th of June in a simple yet meaningful way. HOME president, Bridget Tan, stressed that domestic workers have to be recognized as workers. “They are workers, not maids, nor helpers nor members of and therefore, domestic workers have to be included in the labor law of each country”. Among the events were the sharing by three domestic workers who were delegates to UN Geneva, namely, Cute from the Philippines and Ristanti Ningrum from Indonesia. They agreed that ratification of C189 should be ratified by both countries of origin and destination.
Above:Among the audience, left to right front row, HOME staff Sister Sisi, guest Daniel Kirilly, and HOME President Bridget Tan. Top: Ladies from the HOME shelter
Continued from Previous Page
Participants at the event casting their signatures in support of the ratification of C189.
HOMEâ€™s 8th Annual General Meeting
Left to right: Darien Tock,Stephen Panizza, Leon Perera, Henry Lai Hoe Kiat, Jo-anne Aeria, Ho Yuk Ngee Josef, Bridget Tan, June Lim, Natalia Goh and Christina Santos
On June 24, 2012, the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) held its 8th Annual General Meeting at the YOG Sports Museum. The AGM reported a 24.5 percentage increase in receipts from $981,004 in 2010/2011 to $1,299,503 in 2011/2012. This was due to the generous and continuous support of donors, such as the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, The Lee Foundation, Chen Su Lan Trust Fund, The Netherlands Charity Association, The Foundation Open Society Institute, Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, Deutsche Bank,
Macquarie Capital, Barclays Capital and the Body Shop.
Santos, Natalia Goh, Darien Tock and June Lim.
For domestic worker members of HOME, the AGM was memorable as they exercised their right to vote for the Management Committee for the next two years 2012 to 2014. The past President, Bridget Tan was re-elected unanimously as President for her fourth term of office. Congratulations also to the newly-elected Vice President Jo-anne Aeria, Treasurer Ho Yuk Ngee Josef, Assistant Treasurer Stephen Panizza, Secretary Leon Perera, and Assistant Secretary Henry Lai Hoe Keat. Ordinary members included Christina
The Founder and President, Bridget Tan gave thanks to everyone present and especially to the past board members of Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics, staff and volunteers who had given so much of their time and effort to build HOME into a non-governmental organization recognized nationally and internationally.
The AGM concluded with the presentation of certificates of appreciation for the volunteers of HOME. Congratulations to all!
ice Mental Health Workshop
BY JULIET UGAY
ental health is a serious matter that needs consideration. HOMEâ€™s Director for Health Education, Dr. Thein Than Win emphasized that mental health plays a big role in our everyday life and should be taken care of.
Mental health is very important and it is necessary to take care of it. It is advisable to seek help from friends, family and professionals if anyone is suspected having the symptoms. Remember that health is wealth.
Silver Ribbon Singapore, headed by founder and executive director Porsche Poh, and HOME conducted a workshop at YOG building. Silver Ribbon is a global symbol to promote positive mental health and was launched in 2006 by President SR Nathan. According to Porsche, most people donâ€™t give mental health a thought. Yet statistics show that more than one in 10 people in Singapore are stricken by mental illness in their lifetime and many face depression. According to statistics, women are more affected than men. It strikes the young, usually around 29 years and most who suffer problems are ashamed to seek help. Examples of mental disorders include Agoraphobia, Bipolar Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, Schizophrenia, Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and many more. Mental illness can happen to anyone, not only to regular people but also celebrities and famous people. There were 147 migrant workers who died at the workplace between 1999-2005, most by jumping or falling from high-rise buildings. Some of the deaths were cases of suicides because of poor working conditions, anxiety over debts, social isolation and prolonged confinement indoors.
Porsche Poh, Silver Ribbon Singapore founder and Executive Director
Above: Dr. Thein Tan Win. Below: Event participants. Left: Porsche Poh, Bridget Tan and Juliet Ugay
114th Philippine Independence Day Celebration
BY JULIET UGAY
W e might be in a foreign country, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate our own country’s Independence Day. HOME observed Philippines Independence Day on 11 June 2012, a day before the actual date. Filipino, Indonesian and Myanmar migrant workers celebrated the memorable day that drove the country’s heroes to battle 114 years ago. The event was filled with presentations, singing and dancing and dramatizations of some of the important events and scenarios during that time.
We owe our Independence to the people who sacrificed their own life in order to achieve our freedom. Mabuhay!
More photos on Page 6
Top: Celebrating Independence Day headed by HOME President Bridget Tan, HOME Academy Principal Luz Macaraig and My Voice Editor and SOHO Secretary Juliet Ugay. Above: The Sissy dancers 5
Continued from previous page
Above: A toast to Philippine Independence Left: An Independence Day cake made by Janeth Bullecer
Right: A re-enactment of how Independence was achieved 114 years ago, performed by ladies from the the HOME shelter.
Another case of abuse and exploitation
BY JULIET UGAY
s we were walking down East Coast, I could not help but notice how Maria (not her real name) has changed since she first came to the HOME shelter to seek refuge from her abusive employer. She now shows signs of confidence, is more cheerful, and had gained weight. Maria, 27, is married with two kids aged eight and six. She came to Singapore from a small village in the Philippines. full of hope for providing a better future for her family. She decided to apply for a job as a domestic worker through an agency in Pasay City in Manila via the direct hire scheme. The conditions of the contract included a salary of $420 a month without a day off and a salary deduction of seven-and-a-half months, amounting to $3150. She would be working for a local Chinese couple with three kids aged four, two and one. The lady was a homemaker and they had another helper from Myanmar who had been with them for a few months. The first few days of her work with the family turned out smoothly until suddenly one day things turned upside down. It all started when she was playing with the eldest kid. She accidentally touched the cheek of the boy who told his mother that Maria had slapped him. The boyâ€™s exaggerated story drove the mother to confront and hit Maria. She even made the kids hit Maria back. That incident
was just the beginning of repeated abuse weighed 56kg but after less than three with the family, she lost almost 10kg. How could that she suffered at the hands of her boss. she not lose weight if they only gave her leftSimple mistakes resulted in punishment that overs to eat and very small amounts at that? was extreme and severe. There came a time Maria said she even tried eating food that when they made her sleep on the bathroom had been thrown into the bin. She tried sevfloor or in the kitchen. The lady would make eral times to talk to her male boss but to no her go to sleep at 2:00am and wake her up avail. He was not doing anything against his around 6:00am. When she got mad, she wife, even if he saw how she mistreated Mawould throw oil or pour dark cooking sauce ria. How could someone bear to watch such over Maria and would not let her bathe for ill treatment of another human being and not do anything about it? She approached days. her agency for help but was told she had to When Maria first came to Singapore she wait until they found her replacement.
Her boss got furious, took a small pail and hit Maria with it many times on the head. The blows left her unconscious. Instead of taking her to the hospital, her boss took a pair of scissors and began cutting her hair. 7
The final blow came one day when one of the kids was sick. The child vomited and Maria was not by his side as she was doing some other chores around the house. Her boss got furious, took a small pail and hit Maria with it many times on the head. The blows left her unconscious. Instead of taking her to the hospital, her boss took a pair of scissors and began cutting her hair, while continuing to hit her. When she regained consciousness, she decided to run away to HOME. Marisâ€™s case is undergoing investigation and we are hoping she will get the justice she deserves. Her case is only one of the many cases of abuse and exploitation of domestic workers in Singapore. Her family back homeis worried and all they want is for Maria to return home safe and in good health.
ice A good turn turns good Remedios Marquez Aguilar handling over her donation to SOHO, witnessed by Bridget Tan (far left) and the HOME volunteers (left).
BY JULIET UGAY
had cut out the article – her only glimmer of hope. So one day, armed with only her prayers and the newspaper cutout she set off for Orchard Road. It was a long walk from Palm Drive and she was exhausted, starving and thirsty when she finally reached the HOME Helpdesk in Lucky Plaza.
hen I first met Remedios Marquez Aguilar, I saw a strong woman graced with simplicity and humility. She is blessed in many ways and her story touches our hearts. Remy, as her family and close friends call her, is from Dupax Del Norte, a small village in Nueva Vizcaya, a province north of Manila. The 48-year-old is a widow with two grown up sons. Her husband died from a vehicle accident when she was pregnant with her second child. This was made more devastating because her husband’s body was never recovered after the accident.
After Remy had run away, her employer had lodged a police report accusing her of theft but she was ultimately proved innocent. Remy’s stay at the HOME shelter gave her the chance to go to the Holy Family church, something she hadn’t done in 15 years! She was overjoyed and she prayed the rosary every day. Soon Remy got a new employer. The family was very good to her and she was very thankful.
With her own mother by her side, Remy has been both a mother and a father to her children. She decided to look for work abroad when her second child was only eight months old. At that time it seemed the only option open to her.
One day on her way to church, she saw an old Indian man trip and fall on the road while walking. Without hesitation she helped him up and took him to the church where he was headed. The old man was not well and needed assistance to go to church. Although he had family in Singapore they didn’t have the time for him. So from that day on Remy would take him to church every Sunday, without fail.
Like most domestic workers, Remy’s 15 years in Singapore have not been a bed of roses. She has had five local employers; the first four were not bad and she managed to work for each of them for two to four years. But it was the fourth employer from whom Remy had to run away and seek shelter with HOME.
On Mother’s Day, the man handed an envelope to Remy. She was so shocked to see that he had made Remy the sole beneficiary to his CPF savings. A few days later the man passed away.
Remy’s fourth employer refused to give her a day off although mentioned in her contract. Remy is a devout Catholic but in the last 15 years she has never been to church in Singapore as she has never had a rest day.
Remy did not know what to do, so she called Bridget Tan for assistance. In appreciation of the help she had received from HOME, Remy decided to donate part of the money to the Spirit of Home Scalabrini (SOHO) in Manila.
She decided to run away when she could no longer bear the way her employer treated her. They kept all her important documents under lock and key so she could not escape, but Remy was desperate. She had seen Bridget Tan’s photos and articles in the newspaper, particularly the one about the award she had received in New York. She
Remy’s story is one of a kind and serves as an inspiration to all domestic workers. Her faith in God, her love for his children, her courage and strength in the face of all of life’s challenges show that God is truly great in many ways.
ices Interfaith Memorial Prayer Service
BY JULIET UGAY
unday, June 3, 2012. Domestic workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Myanmar held an interfaith memorial prayer service for those domestic workers who had died this year, eight of whom were from Indonesia, three from the Philippines and one from Myanmar.
The event was filled with sadness and sympathy for these girls as well as for their distraught families back home. Muslim, Christian and Buddhist prayer services were held (photo above) and the event showed how the participants were united despite differences in race, culture and religion.
The majority of these deaths were a result from falling while cleaning windows or hanging laundry from high-rise buildings. The prayer service was led by Reverend Doctor Yap Kim Yao (in inset photo above).
With the help of Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), domestic workers have called for a ban on cleaning windows and hanging laundry from high-rise buildings.
Battle For A Rest Day... Has It Finally Rested? BY Loida Paulin Taan
On March 5, 2012, the Ministry of Manpower announced that
Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) would be given one compulsory rest day every week. This weekly day-off policy will come into effect from January 2013 and will apply to all domestic workers whose work permits have been issued or renewed from January 2013. To most FDW’s this is freedom and to advocacy groups, it spells victory. But has the battle ended and have we really won? Yes, it’s true that FDWs have been guaranteed a weekly rest day. The provision in the new legislation states that employers and their FDWs will be given the flexibility to ‘mutually agree’ on which day the rest day should fall. But the phrase ‘mutually agree’
But the phrase ‘mutually agree’ is pointless as we all know that it will not really be done ‘mutually’ if we consider the power that employers have over their FDWs. 9
is pointless. We all know that it will not really be done ‘mutually’ if we consider the power that employers have over their FDWs. An employer can cancel an FDW’s contract at any time without cause. An abusive employer could take advantage of the situation and coerce the FDW to give in to the employer’s will for fear of getting terminated or repatriated. I have asked some of my friends who are FDWs about the advantages and disadvantages of this weekly rest day policy. Their positive feedback includes meeting new friends, spending time with friends and relatives, upgradng their skills by enrolling in short courses or simply some time to relax and unwind away from the prying eyes of employers. However, on the negative side, one thing stood out. Some FDWs are on the look-out for a fling or a ‘relationship’. Loneliness and homesickness make them easy prey to malicious intents of unscrupulous men or women. The abuse and the misuse of a rest day do not only break a domestic worker’s life, but her family’s future as well. NGOs Advocacy Groups have gone a long, long way in fighting and lobbying for the cause of FDWs. The battle continues and victory will finally come. Do not give up, for in time, this battle will end and finally be won by our dear Foreign Domestic Workers.
Power of a Song
other’s Day – a day that we have to thank our momma, though we can say it every day. Thank you sister Bridget Tan and the HOME family for your untiring help to us and for letting us celebrate this day with you and for letting us share our God-given talents. May 13, 2012 was the day that I can say we rocked your world even if for just a short period of time. One lady approached me when I was at Lucky Plaza food court later that day. She just held me tight and said, “You’re simply the best, really you are”, and a line from the song that I performed. I just smiled and thanked her while I held back my tears. Tears of gladness as I had not imagined the power of song and did not realize the effect it could have on someone I didn’t even know. I am not a great singer, but I am so thankful that I could, in my own way, brighten someone’s day. I am happy because, though our loved ones are not with us, we have friends to share these happy moments. Again I thank God for the talents He has given us – we just have to use it the right way. Thanks to everyone who made that day possible.
– Leila Santos
My Time In Singapore W
hen we start to work for a family, it is always a pleasant feeling knowing we have been chosen to be their children’s caretaker. We are also grateful to our employers for giving us a home in a foreign land. But as the days and years go by, things are not the same. But many of us continue working for the same family for fear of having to pay excessive agency charges when we transfer, and the adjustments or uncertainties of working for a new employer. I am not an exception to this experience. I love all the children that I have taken care of – but not all of the parents. Children are innocent and should not be held accountable for their parent’s attitudes. Just recently, in February this year, after working for seven years with a family, I was asked to end our contract. It was really a huge shock to me. I can’t believe that we were parting ways, when I hadn’t done anything wrong. The eight-year-old daughter was very attached to me, and we were like buddies. I had been taking care of her since she was only18 months old. My love turned into anger, and into bitterness. I felt exhausted, just thinking of how I had patiently worked for them, with not a complaint. The little girl was very upset on the night that I had to go. I was also very sad but I didn’t show my emotion. I was very calm and quiet. But in my heart, I was sad, hurt and disappointed. Now I have moved on with my life to a new family. They are wonderful and a happy bunch of four kids. I’m a lot busier, but happier! One thing I’ve learned from that experience – things change and so do people. We’ll never know what’s waiting for us out there. One day everything seems perfect, the next day might be the opposite. No matter how long we stay with a family, we should always be emotionally prepared to leave. At the end of the day, they are still not our own family, and we will part ways one day. But life has to go on. – Gilda Malaluan
THE TEAM The Editorial Board Editor
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- IDW Day is only the beginning - Celebration of International DW Day - HOME 8th Annual General Meeting - Mental Health Workshop - 114th Phi...