x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Filipino rights group to relaunch anti-violence campaign in Dubai

Gabriela - the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action – hopes to send a strong message to women about defending their rights at its general assembly in Dubai tomorrow.

Melca Perez, chairwoman of the women’s rights group Gabriela. Antonie Robertson / The National
Melca Perez, chairwoman of the women’s rights group Gabriela. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // A women’s rights group plans to relaunch its campaign to battle violence against women and reach out to thousands of Filipinas.

Gabriela – the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action – hopes to send a strong message to women about defending their rights at its general assembly in Dubai tomorrow.

“I do not want our members to lose sight of our vision when it comes to women’s rights and welfare,” said Melca Perez, the group’s chairwoman.

“We need to emphasise the importance of revisiting our ongoing campaign, ‘I vow to fight violence against women’.”

On November 25, 2011, the local branch of Gabriela was launched in Dubai to provide counselling to Filipinas, particularly victims of sexual abuse.

It has more than 70 members, most of whom are household workers. The campaign seeks to encourage women to realise their worth and role in society.

Since its launch, Gabriela has held educational discussions for housemaids and office workers to teach them how to protect themselves.

Topics include rape and incest, sexual harassment, violence against women and children, sex trafficking, prostitution and slavery, and sexual discrimination in the workplace.

In the past nine months Gabriela UAE has handled more than 20 cases involving sexual harassment, rape and non-payment, among other issues.

“Efforts by our government to ensure the protection of the rights of our women are still lacking,” Ms Perez said. “However, the women should also be fully aware of their rights and how to defend them.”

She said she was handling the case of a housemaid who reported a rape to police. Her employer had requested assistance.

There is also a sexual harassment case filed by three female office workers against their boss.

“They had videos as proof, which the police admitted as evidence of sexual and verbal abuse,” Ms Perez said.

In August, a woman was held at the Dubai International Airport for non-payment of her credit card debt. She was eventually released and deported after her family in the Philippines settled her debt.

Some Filipino maids work more than eight hours a day and are paid below the US$400 (Dh1,469) minimum wage set by the Philippine government.

“We hope other women can join us in our campaign and share their experiences,” Ms Perez said. “We need them to be empowered and stand up for their rights.”

Gabriela has invited a speaker from a non-government organisation in Hong Kong to discuss women’s migration and its effects on the family, women and their country.

The general assembly will be held at the Millennium Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road tomorrow from 1pm to 6pm.

rruiz@thenational.ae