Batis is a Filipino word meaning stream.
From a sea of despair, Batis Center for Women extends a stream of hope
and lifeline of support for distressed women migrant workers who are
returning to their lives and families in the Philippines.
by Beryl Cruspero
One of the core services of Batis Center for Women in its more than twenty years of existence is organizing of its women clients. In the Women Empowerment Program, the women are helped to regain their self-confidence having been in distressed situations. Activities such as advocacy campaigns and awareness raising activities such as workshops, trainings and discussions on women’s issues and rights are just some of the activities conducted for them.
In 2007, Batis Center took a major leap when it decided to go into community organizing in order to reach a wider range of women migrants and their families. From being a center-based institution and catering only to walk-in or referred clients, it broadened its scope of work to extend its services and programs to the grassroots level. In an internal study conducted, it was established that majority of the women who sought Batis Center’s services were from the provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Ilocos Sur. These three provinces were also identified as top sending provinces for undocumented migrants based on the data given by POEA. Most of the women migrant workers applied for domestic work but ended up in exploitative situations in their country of destinations.
In September of the same year, Batis Center pioneered its organizing work in Bgy. Dalig, Balagtas, Bulacan by forming an informal support group of migrant women. Batis Center then replicated its work in Bulacan to Nueva Ecija and in Ilocos Sur in 2010. The clients that we happen to organize in the above mentioned areas were trafficked victims and severely exploited women from Malaysia, China, Middle East, Lebanon, Syria, etc. Services such as airport assistance, temporary shelter, medical assistance, legal assistance, educational assistance, and reintegration assistance were provided to them by Batis Center for Women.
Most recently, Batis Center engaged the returned women migrant workers into Social Entrepreneurship (SE). The women’s career interests and their level of entrepreneurial skills were first measured through an assessment. The women then undergo the training, “”How to Start your Business Right” and a mentoring session to help them develop their business plans. The enterprises being put up serve as reintegration assistance to the women. Aside from providing them the opportunity to gain economic opportunities, the SEs also hopes to serve as therapy to help in rebuilding the lives of the clients.
Batis Center also encourages the local government units to help the women in accessing their existing programs and services such as monitoring services, livelihood assistance, referral to agencies that provide services for migrant workers, legal assistance, continuous psychosocial assistance and educational and training assistance.
Organizing work will lead to the existence of extensions or satellite offices of Batis Center for Women in the different communities we work in. In the coming years, we see Batis Center spreading its wings in the field of community development and empowerment. We still have a long way to go through. All this would only be possible with the efforts of the women in the community, their families, the local leaders and other stakeholders. With efforts like these, we see in the coming years the fulfilment of Batis Center’s Empowerment Framework of Self-Help, Help Others, Help Society.