This article was written by Renz Celeridad, our Project Manager for Advocacy Communication.
Almost two million Filipinos are working overseas based on a 2022 report from the Philippine Statistics Authority. These are individuals dreaming of a better life not just for themselves but for their loved ones.
These are Filipinos leaving the people they love and the comfort of their homes, holding only the hope that someday they will return with dreams fulfilled and heads held high.
If they were sure they could easily start over in the Philippines, they would have come home already or maybe they wouldn’t have left in the first place. The reality, however, is that coming home usually means returning with a blank slate and – in the case of many OFWs – an empty pocket.
This is why many of them opt to remain overseas even at the risk of exploitation, violence, and even illegal trafficking. Women OFWs in particular are more likely to be at risk, but only 30% of them report their experience and seek help.
UN Women aims to address this issue through the Bridging Recruitment to Reintegration in Migration Governance (BRIDGE) Programme. The organization found that OFW journeys could still be improved by applying the concept of gender-responsive reintegration into the governance efforts of the Philippines.
Evident supported UN Women in creating information, education and communication (IEC) materials for the BRIDGE Programme, including a mini-documentary showcasing the experiences of OFWs and giving them a platform to share exactly what they need from the Philippine government.
OFW Integration: What Should it look like?
Reintegration refers to the process of re-incorporating migrant returnees into their home countries. The BRIDGE Programme advocates for this process to be sustainable and gender-responsive.
Sustainable reintegration means supporting OFWs to be economically self-sufficient and socially stable, as well as prioritizing their psychosocial well-being.
This means providing access to government services for holistic growth to transform them into individuals who can make decisions and take actions on their own. In this case, sustainable reintegration also aims to shift the mindset of OFWs to view migration as an option rather than a need.
Moreover, reintegration should consider the gender-specific needs and situations of women OFWs. For instance: livelihood assistance programs must consider factors specific to women OFWs, such as their household roles, physical and emotional capacity, as well as knowledge and practices.
In summary, gender-responsive reintegration calls for recognizing the women’s agency and decision-making capacities instead of viewing them as mere victims of their circumstance.
OFWs are staying for good—and here's why
The mini-documentary we created shed light on reasons women OFWs have decided to stay in the Philippines for good.
Gilda Mosatalla, Weaving and Sewing Coordinator at the Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), explained being able to provide for her family and being close with them weighs heavier than the potential to earn life-changing money abroad.
For Mary Joy Barcelona, her reason for staying for good is serving her fellow OFWs and joining them in the fight for the rights they should enjoy: “Hindi lang pang-personal na ang nakikita kong may halaga sa akin, kundi gayundin iyong mga ginagawa ko para sa iba.” Mary Joy’s story is unfortunately a common one among OFWs: She expected to find honest work, only to be objectified and treated unfairly by foreign employers.
Staying for good can also open up opportunities for sustainable business for women OFWs like Almira Diauna. She is an edible fern farm owner who returned to the country to finish her studies. After graduating from school, she became a radio broadcaster delivering news and relevant information to her hometown. Her main income source now is her edible fern farm, proving that women can also start their own businesses and become their own bosses.
Harnessing the power of stories to encourage gender-responsive integration
The stories of the women featured in our mini-documentary – interspersed with the perspectives of UN Women, the academe, civil society, and the international community – help explain the BRIDGE Programme’s concept of “gender-responsive reintegration” to migration actors in the government, civil society, and private sector in a way that is clear, authentic, and relatable. These stories further emphasize the importance of mainstreaming gender-responsive reintegration into the Philippine government’s efforts, and push viewers to mobilize their resources to ensure the needs of OFWs are met.
To learn more about our work to empower women and #EmbraceEquity, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.