Ask any Filipino, and chances are, he or she may have friends or relatives working abroad. A lot of our local talent fly abroad for better opportunities; in fact, according to the Safe and Fair Programme, which is an initiative of the United Nations and the European Union, “females compromised 53.7% or 1.26 million of the total OFWs in 2017.” And while we hail our OFWs as the makabagong bayani, we seldom hear their experiences, and sadly for many, these are often wrought with abuse.

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Maine Mendoza shares during a November 25 Facebook Live session that she has been privy to these stories, as aside from having a lot of OFW fans, she has also heard about them through “Bawal Judgemental”, a segment in Eat Bulaga.

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Madalas din po nafi-feature namin ‘yong mga OFWs, tapos ‘pag tinatanong naming ‘yong mga naging experience po nila doon sa mga employers nila and ‘yong experience nila working abroad, parang ang hirap po tanggapin ‘yong mga abuse na kinailangan po nilang harapin at pagdaanan.”

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This is one of the many reasons why she’s grateful to have been chosen as the celebrity champion of the Babaeng Biya(hero) campaign under the Safe and Fair Programme, which aims to help end violence against women OFWs, and to raise awareness on what avenues and agencies are available for them.

“Being the Babaeng Biya(hero) celebrity champion is a big responsibility for me dahil mayroon po akong tungkulin na tulungang pakalasin ‘yong campaign na ito at ipalaganap po ‘yong mahahalagang information po na makakatulong sa mga Babaeng Biya(heroes) natin,” says Maine. “I’m also glad and honored to be part of this worth and timely campaign po for the Pinay migrant workers po natin. Siyempre para mas bigyan lakas pa sila para tumayo po laban sa abuso… lalo na para protektahan ang kanilang mga sarili.”

The television host also explains that this is something close to her heart. “This is also also aligned with my personal advocacy na magbigay ng inspirasiyon sa ating mga migrant workers all over the world at siyempre doon po sa pinagdadaanan nilang hirap…siyempre gusto po nating palakasin ang loob nila in many ways.”

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According to International Labour Organization (ILO) National Project Coordinator Rex Varona, exploitation has “been worsened by the COVID pandemic.” UN Women National Project Coordinator Charisse Jordan adds that “With the lockdown, women, migrant workers, including those who remained in destination countries or were forced to return home, are trapped with abusive family members, employers, and perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.” This is why it’s highly important to get the word out that they can be provided the help the need to get out of the situation.

Marami rin kasi akong kilala na OFWs, ‘yong iba pong relatives… marami rin pong tagasuporta, tagahanga na nagtratrabaho rin po sa ibang bansa na nakikilala ko po or nakaka-chika ko rin kapag nagtra-travel ako,” Maine says. “[I want] to do something for them, to give back.”

For more details on the Babaeng Biya(hero) initiative, follow the Safe and Fair Philippines Facebook page.

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