NCRFW bats for the protection of women migrants’ rights

The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), the government’s machinery for women’s advancement, is optimistic that the plight of women migrants will be deliberated and thoroughly addressed in the upcoming 2008 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) to be hosted by the Philippine Government on October 27-31, 2008.

NCRFW spearheaded the International Conference on Gender, Migration and Development: Seizing Opportunities, Upholding Rights (ICGMD) last September 25-26, 2008. The conference came up with a Resolution and the Manila Call To Action affirming that migration policies and practices, including their impact on gender equality, are a shared responsibility of sending and destination countries.

The Resolution that was agreed upon by 436 individuals from 36 countries in 5 continents, with representations from the governments, trade unions, employers’ organizations, private sector, civil society, religious organizations, academe and international organizations calls all the participating states at the Manila GFMD to incorporate the Manila Call to Action as a substantive input to the forum deliberations and outcomes.

The GFMD is a new initiative of the international community to address the migration and development interconnections in practical and action-oriented ways. It marks the culmination of more than a decade of international discussion on the growing importance of these linkages, and the progressive acknowledgement of the need to address the policy implications and responses in a multilateral framework.

The theme of the 2008 GFMD that will be led by the Department of Foreign Affairs is “Protecting and Empowering Migrants for Development” which reflects a growing understanding that the developmental benefits of migration are contingent upon the degree to which migrants are protected and empowered, by both the host and origin countries.

The Manila Call To Action presents two major recommendations to ensure that the United Nations Conventions and UN Declaration on the Right to Development, relating to the rights and protection of migrant workers, the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment and the social, economic, political and cultural rights of all citizens in development are implemented.

One salient point in the manifesto is the strengthening of the capacity of the governments “to screen and monitor employer/employee contracts and to address gender issues specific to migrant workers bearing in mind the multiple discrimination experienced by women migrant workers and their concentration in less visible jobs.”

“As recognized in the 1st Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) held in Brussels in 2007, there is a need to address more clearly and adequately the issues of gender, migration and development. Thus, the ICGMD is the very first international conference on migration and development with focus on the gender issues,” NCRFW Chair Myrna T. Yao said.

The conveners of the ICGMD are hoping that DFA can continue to support its commitment in promoting and protecting women migrants’ rights by influencing all countries in making positive change to address the gender issues in migration and development.

“In behalf of the ICGMD conveners, we are hoping that the recommendations borne out of the ICGMD will be thoroughly considered in the GFMD deliberations,” Chair Yao added.

The Manila Call To Action appeals for an increase efforts to monitor and enforce decent working conditions and wages of both women and men migrants.

It likewise discourages sending workers, especially women workers, into vulnerable occupations in countries where they find themselves in situations where their rights and dignity are grossly violated.

The Manila Call to Action also calls for the recognition of domestic work as work in international and national laws. It states:

“Support the formulation and adoption of an international ILO convention on domestic workers and amend national legislation to specifically recognize their human, social, labour and trade union rights and protection on the same basis as other workers. Introduce effective monitoring and grievance/redress mechanisms to address violations. Ensure decent treatment, standard contracts and provide legal and accessible migration channels for domestic workers. Provide channels for assistance to domestic workers such as SMS system for fast transmittal of help messages to NGOS and government authorities.”

Chair Yao emphasized that gender-sensitive, rights-based approach should be infused in the discussion of all migration policies and gender should be mainstreamed in migration strategies and approaches.

The conveners of the ICGMD event in Manila that are pushing for the protection of women migrants’ rights include the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College (WAGI-MC) and Lola Grande Foundation for Women and Children, Inc.