x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Filipinos seek help to fight violence against women

Of the more than 100 recruitment agencies accredited with the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai, seven firms were found to have broken the recruitment laws.

DUBAI // Members of a Filipino women's rights group are calling for their government's support to put an end to violence against women in the UAE.

"The women who are most often abused here are domestic helpers," said Melca Perez, the chairwoman of Gabriela UAE ahead of today's International Women's Day. "An increasing number of victims are seeking help from the Philippine consulate."

However, these women have not been receiving adequate support from officials, she said.

On November 25, Gabriela - the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action - was officially launched in Dubai to provide counselling to Filipinas, particularly those who have suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the hands of their employers.

Over the past three months, Gabriela UAE has handled more than 30 cases. Two thirds involved domestic workers who complained of non-payment of wages, lack of food and sleep, long working hours and physical and verbal abuse.

Amilbahar Amilasan, the Filipino labour attache in Dubai, said his office has done its part to support the women.

"They are not well compensated for their work so many of them tend to run away," he said. "Most are being paid Dh700 or Dh800 while a few get Dh1,000 and suffer verbal abuse."

The Philippines government has set a US$400 (Dh1,470) minimum salary for its nationals working as domestic staff abroad.

Of the more than 100 recruitment agencies accredited with the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai, seven firms were found to have broken the recruitment laws. Mr Amilasan's office has stopped processing their papers.

"If these maids are paid $400 or more, the problem will be minimised," he said.

To mark International Women's Day, the group will organise an art and musical programme in Dubai from 11am to 2pm tomorrow.

"We will continue the campaign 'I vow to fight Vaw [violence against women]' that we launched last year," said Ms Perez. "We have a photo gallery of our members who have pledged their commitment to the cause."

Gabriela has been active in the Philippines since March 1984, and has branches in the US, Hong Kong, Japan and the Netherlands, among other countries.

rruiz@thenational.ae