Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eugenia Baja in the globalized labor market (via Mick Hartley)

Another world-wide war against women update.

Large proportions of Filipina women earn their living as guest-workers around the world. Some of the problems they encounter are summed up in the Wikipedia entry on OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers):
Many overseas Filipino workers, both blue collar and white collar, face many obstacles abroad. These include illegal recruitment, mysterious deaths, racial profiling and discrimination, and kidnappings.

In some countries, such as in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and in Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, many OFWs have reported that their pay was withheld, while others have had their documents confiscated or hidden. Furthermore, some of these workers, who are mostly domestic helpers, are physically or sexually abused, or even murdered. The most well-known OFWs that have been involved in these cases include Flor Contemplacion and Sarah Balabagan. [....]

Another great risk for OFW's is the rise of Filipina women becoming sex slaves in neighboring East Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea. Thousands of Filipina women travel abroad for domestic work only to be tricked by their foreign employers into sexual slavery. [....]

[JW: For more, including references and citations, see the Wikipedia article]
Huge proportions of the labor force in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries are foreign guest-workers whose effective rights often range from few to none. Eugenia Baja was one of the many women who fell into that social space and got swallowed up.

--Jeff Weintraub
Mick Hartley (Politics & Culture)
June 13, 2008
The Tale of Eugenia Baja

The life and death of a Filipino domestic servant in Saudi Arabia [from Arab News]:
Aisis International Manpower Agency, Manila-based recruitment agency sent Baja to Saudi Arabia to work as “patient server” on May 6, 2007. But she was asked to sign another contract as a domestic helper. “She had no choice but to sign it because she was already in a foreign land,” her family said.

Twenty-five year old Baja is [JW: or rather was] married and has two children, Migrante media coordinator Jonathan Panlilio said.

Six months later, Baja called her family in Bohol and told them she has not received yet any salary from her Arab employer. She was tired, distressed and helpless, her family said.

The last communication she had had with her family was when she texted them that she wanted to go back home last January 2008. Two months later, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informed Baja’s family that the OFW died in a hospital on Feb. 24, 2008 due to an unspecified sickness.

DFA sent them a second formal letter informing the family that Baja died of suicide when she continuously banged her head on the bathroom tiles in her Arab employer’s home.
Clearly a woman of remarkable determination, this Baja: repeatedly smashing her head into the bathroom tiles, again and again, resulting in "severe hemorrhage and skull fracture". Three months later, her body was sent back to relatives in Manila.

More here:
... according to her employer, Eugenia killed herself after they refused to give her permission to go on vacation. The employer, the statement added, also told DFA that Baja locked herself inside her room for three days. She was found dead inside the toilet near broken tiles.

The group said however that according to records of actions taken by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Baja’s employer "alleged that she got sick, was brought to the hospital and later died."

The family are demanding an enquiry.