Filipinos leaving for overseas work do so because they find a lot of things lacking in the Philippines. Foremost of which is the opportunity to work (gainful or otherwise), to receive income way above whatever it is they earn as laborers in the Philippines, and the perceived opportunities for growth and personal development. And in their actual country of destination, many Filipinos either find, are promised, or perceive that there is an abundance of whatever it is they find lacking in the Philippines.
In most cases however, overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) get more than what they bargain for. Along with the perceived and actual benefits of migration, OFWs also invariably deal with the social and personal costs of their migration experiences. From wanting more out of life, many returned with less than what they were aiming for.
Moreso for Filipino women migrant workers who end up mostly working as domestic workers, entertainers, factory workers, and caregivers. These are jobs that leave women migrant workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Batis Center for Women has been addressing the issues and concerns of returned distressed women migrant workers since the late 1980s. The women, spurred by their dreams of better lives for themselves and their families, ended up in situations of abuse and exploitation. From a sea of despair in their countries of destination, Batis Center for Women offered a stream of hope to returned distressed women migrant workers.
From the provision of direct assistance and welfare services, Batis developed its programs and services until the institution had the capability to address the medium-term needs of the women through awareness-raising, organizing, alternative livelihood projects / social enterprise development, and other social and economic reintegration activities. Through more than two decades of institutional herstory, Batis was able to assist individual clients and groups of clients (through Batis AWARE and other group formations) in setting up enterprises. From the earlier alternative livelihood project such as the sewing shop, Batis has played a role in the establishment of Batis AWARE’s vigil candle shop. Batis AWARE has since then established other enterprises such as the burger shop and a small canteen. Batis also assisted individual clients set up small enterprises in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and the most recent enterprise set up by Batis with a group of the institution’s women clients is the laundromat in Quezon City.
In our desire to bring the services (reception to reintegration) for returned distressed women migrant workers closer to the ground and to create a direct impact in communities where the women come from, Batis Center for Women in 2007 initiated community organizing work in identified areas in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija after it was established that a clustering of the institution’s clients were to be found in these provinces. In 2010, Batis included Ilocos Sur in the scope of its geographic work. Batis’ vision was to create a local social and economic support and reintegration network to create the environment at the local level for the individual initiatives of the Batis clients to fluorish and become sustained by connecting it with available services and on-going initiatives in the area with the support of the local government, the business sector, the private sector, migrant associations, and other stakeholders.
By linking the economic initiatives of returned distressed women migrant workers to create the enabling environment for support, scaling-up (growth) and sustainability, starting out with LESS can translate to more opportunities for the returned distressed women migrant workers, their families and local economies to benefit from these linked economic initiatives. In the long run, these linked initiatives is envisioned to become a local social and economic support and reintegration network for prospective, confirmed, active, and returned migrant workers and their families in order to minize the social costs and optimize the gains of migration for local economic development, and wealth & job generation.