Batis Center for Women
About the Organization
The Batis Center for Women is a non-governmental organization working to address the needs and concerns of returned Filipino women migrant workers and their families through welfare services, organizing, education, training, and more.
Batis Center for Women began in 1988 as a joint initiative between the Division of Family Ministries of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the House in the Emergency of Love and Peace (HELP) Asian Women's Shelter of the Japan Women's Christian Temperance Union. Since its inception, Batis has extended direct assistance to over 3,000 women and their families and relayed its advocacy messages on the risks and realities of migration to more than 20,000 students, community women, and policymakers.
Batis AWARE (Association of Women in Action for Rights and Empowerment) is the self-help organization of Filipino women returnees from Japan in 1996 and Batis-YOGHI (Youth Organization that Gives Hope and Inspiration) is composed of children of the women returnees. Batis Center for Women, Batis AWARE and Batis-YOGHI work as partners in addressing the issues of migration, human rights and development in general, and women migrant workers and their families in particular.
Batis is a Filipino word that means "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.
Project Name: Strengthening and Sustaining Service Delivery to Distressed Returned Filipino Women Migrant Workers and their Children Towards Genuine Empowerment.
United Methodist Women has funded this project for the past 6 years. The project aims to strengthen the capacity and capability of Batis to provide immediate and direct welfare services for returned distressed Filipino women migrants from East and South East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The project also aims to sustain the support to women and children who are on the road to recovery.
As one of the top ten migrant-sending countries in the world, it is estimated that over 3,400 people migrate from the Philippines every day. As of 2011, there are about 10 million Filipinos working abroad, and 70% of these migrants are women. Ninety percent of those going abroad are employed in domestic work.
At present, the age range of the new generation of women clients at Batis is 16 to 29. The women are usually from impoverished communities in Manila or from the provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Ilocos Sur. These areas often have a high concentration of residents seeking work abroad, and many end up as victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking.
Recruiters and traffickers usually prey on the young women who have limited educational background, are employed in low-income and contractual work, and are often relied on as breadwinners by their families. These women have taken on the responsibility of lifting their families out of poverty, and fall prey to the lure of overseas work, no matter how dirty, difficult or dangerous. They often return economically empty-handed and psychologically, emotionally and physically burdened by their hardship, abuse and exploitation.
Batis Center offers the following services:
Direct Care and Welfare Services
Batis uses United Methodist Women’s financial support to deliver direct services such as pre-arrival home visits to the migrant’s families, airport reception, temporary shelter, counseling and medical assistance.
Batis receives referrals from network organizations abroad for reintegration assistance to women returning to the Philippines. Batis conducts pre-arrival home visits to the families of the women to explore the family’s situation, if it is safe for the returning migrant to reunite with the family upon return to the Philippines. This visit is vital for security reasons in cases where the recruiters are within the neighborhood.
When a schedule of return is set, Batis picks up the client at the airport. If it is unsafe yet for the women to go home immediately upon return, Batis provides shelter services, for a maximum of two weeks, where the women stay while preparations for family reunification or resettlement elsewhere are made.
Batis also provides accompaniment services during family reunification to assist the women in explaining the experiences that they have gone through to their families. This family meeting is important in order to level off the family’s unmet expectations.
In order to help the women process their experiences and overcome trauma, Batis hires registered social workers to conduct counseling sessions. In few cases where the women would need in-depth counseling, Batis refers them to expert counselors and psychiatrists. In 2011, 40 women received these kinds of services.
From the experience of Batis, returned distressed female migrant workers often need a long period of healing. Batis ensures the continuity of services that often spans a couple of years and that the support for these women comes from many sources within and around the immediate environment of the returnees.
As for the children of migrant workers, Batis extended continuing education and training through life skills and awareness-raising activities to 45 children and youth through Batis Children and Youth Development Program. They are organized as Batis YOGHI and conduct various educational activities such as discussion of migration issues, gender awareness, leadership training, and organizational development.
These are made possible through joint efforts of 6 staff persons and service providers which include the executive director, administrative officer, project officer, social worker-case manager, social worker-community organizer, and a volunteer.
Legal Assistance Program
The legal assistance program helps women to fully understand their basic human rights and the rights they can assert before their host countries as overseas workers. The women learn the legal process of migration and are oriented to the proper government agencies to contact whenever a certain issue arises abroad.
For those who have been victims of human trafficking or other crimes, Batis helps them to understand that what they’ve been through was illegal and that they were victims of a crime. Batis then helps the women to engage in the judicial process by prosecuting the illegal recruiters and traffickers. Seeking legal remedies for the violation of migrant workers’ rights is an important step for Filipino women in the process of empowerment, as they are able to utilize existing laws and policies in seeking justice for their experiences.
Batis is also actively engaged in networking and legislative advocacy A concrete example of Batis’ advocacy is the enactment of Philippines Republic Act in 2006 resulting from the work of Batis for the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers and their families.
Children of the migrants are also educated about the legal process of overseas employment. Since many of these children are of “dual” nationality, Batis conducts several discussions on national laws of their countries of origin to properly guide them about their citizenship and its civil and political rights.
Economic Reintegration Assistance
Batis conducts life skills and enterprise development trainings for the returned migrant women. Since most of them has expressed an interest in starting their own business, Batis helps them develop, plan and operationalize their pursuits. Batis offers many life skills trainings across the country to provide a safe space where women can reflect on and share their experiences and learn how to plan, start, manage and sustain their enterprises.
In 2011, Batis helped:
- Three trafficking survivors from Syria.
- Four women in distress due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
- Three women who were survivors of domestic violence.
- Thirty women in distress due to war in Lebanon.
These 40 women received legal assistance, business coaching, and welfare services.
Through legal programs, the women become aware of the legal process of migration. The trafficked women were able to understand that they had been victims of trafficking. All of the women also developed a fuller understanding of the different government agencies they can ask for help.
The economic assistance reintegration program had a great impact on the women because they enhanced their skills in business planning and accounting. They were able to decide not to go back abroad, but rather to stay with their families and begin a small start-up business. The groups of Lebanon women were able to buy and sell pork meat as their business project.
The welfare services program helped the women to gradually overcome their distressed conditions and enabled them to work towards rebuilding their lives.
The clients’ children also learned to identify common promises and lures of illegal recruiters and traffickers, the realities of working conditions abroad and equipped with knowledge of their legal rights and legal institutions that can assist them. They were also able to assess their strengths and weaknesses and reflect on what they were going to do in their lives to be helpful in the community where they live.
“Why don’t migrants just stay in their home country?” is an oft-asked question, especially in countries experiencing a large and rapid influx of migrants. The answer, any migrant will tell you, is complicated.
There are many reasons why migrants leave their home countries. Some leave to flee war, conflict, or persecution. Others seek the basic things that a well-functioning economy should be able to provide to all its people—decent jobs and livelihoods, education, fair legal services, easy and affordable access to basic human needs. Whatever the reasons, a core truth is that migrants’ decision to leave their homes, their families, the familiar, is never an easy one, and at the crux of their decision is often a desire and need to protect their own and their families’ lives.
Migrants often leave their homes armed with high hopes, showered with lofty promises—a job, money, and future possibilities. Even before they leave, they are subjected to onerous expenses from governments and recruiters, leading to heavy debt burdens, the price to pay for their dream of a better life.
Upon arrival at their destination countries, many find that they have been promised a Trojan horse. They are subjected to a range of abuses such as underpayment, unjust dismissal, oppressive state migrant laws, sexual violence, physical attacks, inhumane working conditions and other degrading treatment. Cognizant of the shaky economic conditions back home, their accumulated travel debt, and the high expectations and needs of their loved ones, many are left with the choice of staying and tolerating the abuses or returning home to face debt and lack. Others have no choice at all and end up being deserted, displaced, or deported.
Below are success stories of women who faced these challenges and more.
Client Stories from Nueva Ecija
Alitaptap is 55, married and a mother of 3 children, still studying at school. Before her plans to travel overseas, Alitaptap grew her own fruit and vegetables for a livelihood for her family. Her husband was, and still is, a tricycle driver. He is disabled, having lost one hand in an accident.
Alitaptap decided to work abroad because it would help alleviate her family from poverty and be a good way to support her children’s education. Alitaptap first met Mercy in 2008, through a neighbor’s friend. Mercy told Alitaptap that she could organize a job for Alitaptap in Syria as a domestic worker.
Alitaptap had to pay 10,000 pesos (USD $244.00) for fake travel documents including a passport and another 10,000 pesos for a medical checkup. Alitaptap and her family did not have enough money to pay for her fake travel documents and medical check up. So Alitaptap decided to borrow money from a local lender who charges 20 percent interest. Alitaptap thought this would be alright because in return for these things Alitaptap was promised by Mercy to receive a salary of 10 000 pesos a month from her employer in Syria.
In February 2008, Alitaptap set out to fly from the Philippines to Syria via Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. of China. However, a worker in the Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. of China airport stopped Alitaptap and saw that Alitaptap had a fake passport. Alitaptap was returned to the Philippines.
Since then Alitaptap has returned to selling fruit and vegetables for her livelihood. Her family struggles with money because they have not been able to pay off the 20,000 pesos they owe the lender, having thought this money would come from Alitaptap’s job abroad. Her struggle has continued as Alitaptap’s fruit and vegetables have been destroyed in the recent typhoons.
Batis extended the following services to Alitaptap:
- Group work sessions.
- Livelihood and social enterprise training.
Batis also linked her to the local social and economic services so Alitaptap could receive proper monitoring within the locality. Alitaptap developed her own enterprise (a rolling store) and implemented it in March this year.
Client Gulay worked as a domestic worker in Syria from February 2008 until October 2008. Before that Gulay sold rice cakes in a local kindergarten to support her family. A woman named Mercy was visiting Gulay’s community offering employment overseas. At first Gulay was not sure that she wanted to go abroad. However after Mercy pestered Gulay for around a month Gulay decided that she might be interested. The reason Gulay decided to work abroad was because Gulay wanted to help alleviate her family’s poverty and support her parents and 5 other siblings.
Mercy promised Gulay a good job and told her that Gulay’s accommodation and food in Syria would be free. Gulay was also promised a salary of $150 a month. In return Gulay was made to pay 10,000 pesos for fake travel documents including a passport. Gulay was also promised a contract but she never saw or signed one. Gulay did not have the 10,000 pesos so had to borrow money from the local lender.
When Gulay arrived in Syria she soon found out that she had been lied to. Gulay arrived at the Syrian airport in the morning but was not picked up until the evening. Gulay recalls that when she was taken for her training she was kept with other domestic helpers who told her she shouldn’t have come. They said she would be paid very little and would not be given food. During her training period Gulay was kept in a shelter that had a roof but no walls.
Gulay was then transferred to her employer’s house. Gulay was not given her first four months of wages; her employers told her this was her way of paying for her food and accommodation. After four months Gulay received $100 a month, not the $150 she was promised. She was not given very much food and was given the family’s leftovers. Her employers hit and verbally abused her. She begun to feel stressed with her job and often felt unwell.
Gulay wrote to her mother and told her of the abuse she was experiencing from her employers. Gulay’s mother became concerned and notified the Department of Foreign Affairs who retrieved Gulay. She was taken from her employers and then placed in a women’s shelter where she stayed for one month before returning to the Philippines.
Since then Gulay has married a Filipino man and had one child. Gulay still feels stressed when she thinks about her time in Syria. Gulay and her family are interested in pursuing legal action but don’t have the financial means to do so. Gulay and her family are still struggling with money including having to pay off the loan they got from the lender to pay for Gulay’s fake travel documents.
Gulay has stated that she is interested in learning about new ways to increase her livelihood. Gulay finished the third year of secondary school and said she may be interested in finishing the rest of her schooling.
Batis extended the following services to Gulay:
- Group work sessions.
- Counseling and psychosocial support.
- Livelihood and social enterprise training.
Gulay preferred not to pursue schooling. She developed her own enterprise (variety store) in March this year.