HAWAII'S ONLY WEEKLY FILIPINO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER
SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
JUNE 3, 2017
COMMENTARY

Filipino Women Against Modern Day Slavery

by Irma SHAUF-BAJAR

The Philippines is one of the largest labor exporters in the world with 6,000 Filipinos—60% women—leaving the country every single day to work, because of rampant poverty, joblessness, and landlessness. Lured to apply for positions that do not exist, promised legal status and wages, and instead becoming undocumented, drowning in debt, and isolated in a foreign country -- thousands of OFWs end up working in virtual slavery. Recruiters and employment agencies take advantage of their workers, by charging exorbitant fees and loans and threatening their workers with deportation or physical violence to the workers and their families. Living in fear and with no place to go, many OFWs endure the discrimination, abuse, and exploitation in order to survive.

The article written by Alex Tizon regarding the story of Eudocia Pulido and her forced migration and exploitation as a modern day slave in the United States highlights the current conditions of Filipino women. Eudocia Pulido story cannot be understood outside of the context of the Philippine society and history rooted in U.S. imperialism and neoliberal economic policies that have caused the systemic suffering of many underpaid domestic helpers like Lola.

It is important that we do not whitewash the writer’s parents’ and family’s crimes of slavery, imprisonment, and trafficking. Alex Tizon’s account of Eudocia Pulido’s story does not exonerate him from his family's complicity in the abuse and exploitation of another human being. And we also must recognize this particular experience is not an isolated one, and stems from the Philippines’ feudal patriarchal and imperialist structure. The commodification and exploitation of generations of Filipina women continues to be an inherent effect of the ever worsening conditions--conditions which will persist and generate many more Eudocia’s until comprehensive and fundamental socio-economic and political changes are made to address the root causes of the country's poverty.

Members of GABRIELA USA continue to take action and call for an end to the exploitative system in the Philippines and denounce the Philippine government for its neglect of its own people within the country and lack of protection of OFWs abroad. In addition, we uplift the voices of Filipino migrant women to tell their own stories. GABRIELA USA seeks to empower migrant women to know and understand their rights, to fight back against oppression and exploitation, and to participate in the movement for national democracy in the Philippines. If you are moved by Lola’s story we encourage you to join a chapter of GABRIELA USA and join the fight against feudal-patriarchy and the systems of power that allow women like Lola to be forced into exploitation.

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GABRIELA USA is a grassroots-based alliance of progressive Filipino women's organizations in the United States seeking to wage a struggle for the liberation of all oppressed Filipino women and the rest of our people.

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