The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) condemns the killing of Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Kuwait.
Villavende left the country in July 2019 to work as a household service worker in the Gulf State, eyeing a stable job and a good future for her family in South Cotabato, only to end up dead, allegedly at the hands of her Kuwaiti employer. Such shall not be the fate of women OFWs who risked working abroad at the expense of being away from their families they seek to provide for.
The PCW calls for the full protection of the rights of women migrant workers, which are enshrined in various laws, including the Magna Carta of Women (MCW or R.A. 9710), which states that, “the State shall ensure the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of migrant women regardless of their work status, and protect them against discrimination in wages, conditions of work, and employment opportunities in host countries.”
Various government agencies, like the Department of Labor and Employment, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, are collectively working to ensure that our migrant workers are not only aptly compensated but safe. Women OFWs who may be in distress can seek help from the Gender Focal Point Officer in Philippine Embassies and Consulates, who are responsible for handling gender-related concerns of women migrant workers, as provided in the MCW.
But we must not wait for Filipino women to fly to foreign lands and experience violence or die in the hands of their employers when other earning opportunities can be provided to them within the country. Thus, the PCW welcomes the move to study the possibility of totally banning the deployment of OFWs to precarious States. We likewise call on concerned government agencies and private entities to develop local employment and other economic opportunities for women, through skills and entrepreneurship development, education and training.
We call on government agencies and local government units to strengthen programs that support women’s economic empowerment at the national and local level and enable women micro entrepreneurs to improve their product design and market strategies.
We also appeal that the Kuwaiti government adhere to the MOA it inked with the Philippine Government in 2018, detailing protective guidelines for OFWs -- a necessary agreement reached after Filipina Joanna Demafelis was found dead inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment.
The PCW envisions a brighter future for women migrant workers, a future which does not tolerate another Villavende or Demafelis. All forms of violence against women migrant workers not only in Kuwait, but other foreign countries, must stop.