Special Report
Protecting Women's and Children's Rights in the Philippines, Jan 19, 2018
Carmelita Nuqui, Executive Director of the Development Action for Women's Network (DAWN), explains the organization's approach to supporting Filipino women migrants.
Over the course of the last week, Peace Boat has explored issues pertaining to the protection of women's and children's rights in the Philippines, starting with two onboard lectures by our esteemed guest, Ms. Carmelita Nuqui, the Executive Director of the Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), a non-profit organization based in Manila, Philippines dedicated to addressing the needs of Filipino women migrants who have returned from working in Japan and their Japanese-Filipino children (JFC). These lectures were followed by a visit to Subangdaku, an impoverished area in Cebu, Philippines and an orientation with OPTIONS, a non-profit organization that serves the children and families of this neighbourhood.

Peace Boat participants visit the slum of Subangdaku in Cebu, Philippines.
From Ms. Nuqui's lectures, Peace Boat participants learned that since the 1980s, many Filipino women have migrated to Japan in search of job opportunities as Overseas Performing Artists (OPAs). However, upon arriving in Japan, these women have been forced to face a bleak reality - they have had their contracts violated, become victims of human trafficking, and many ended up conceiving children with Japanese men. Under these circumstances, many of them returned to the Philippines, where they faced a new set of challenges - social stigma, unemployment and life as single mothers. Recognizing these issues, Ms. Nuqui founded DAWN in 1996 with the goal of empowering Filipino migrant women through psychosocial interventions, which include services such as counseling, legal assistance and economic interventions, which include hands-on skills (sewing, weaving) and entrepreneurial training. .

Staff member from Subangdaku Technical Vocational Training School describes the hands-on training that students receive in order to become masseuses.
In addition to ensuring the safety and well-being of Filipino migrant women, DAWN also supports Japanese-Filipino children. In an interview, Ms. Nuqui emphasized how "important it is for [the children] to know the culture and the language and to meet other children so they don't feel like they are by themselves." As such, DAWN organizes various workshops and events for these children to learn Japanese and prepare Japanese dishes. Furthermore, DAWN works with the children to launch its annual Teatro Akebono Japan tour, where the children visit different prefectures in Japan to perform a play about their experiences as Japanese-Filipino children. Before the children arrive in Japan, DAWN makes every effort to locate their fathers and reunite them. Ms. Nuqui touched on the significance of these meetings, noting that the "children feel more complete when they meet their fathers and know that their mothers worked in Japan as entertainers."

An Options, Inc. Social Worker welcomes Peace Boat participants and discusses the importance of protecting children's rights in the Philippines.
Several days after Ms. Nuqui's lectures, Peace Boat docked in Cebu, Philippines, where a group of participants visited Subangdaku, a slum situated directly across from a chain mall that is displacing communities due to its rapid development. One participant, Kie Ezuka, shared, "I wonder what the people who live in the slums think of the people who go to the shopping mall. The juxtaposition of these two places is shocking." While in Subangdaku, Peace Boat participants visited the Subangdaku Technical Vocational School, an institution whose goal is to alleviate poverty by providing students with hands-on training in metal work, garment production, and art and trade to enable them to secure jobs in the future. There, Peace Boat participants engaged in intercultural exchange with the students, in addition to attending an orientation with OPTIONS, Inc. (Outreach Program on Trainings, Integral Organizing and Networking for Solidarity), a non-profit organization that provides educational support to the children of impoverished neighborhoods.

A Moment of Intercultural Exchange: Peace Boat participant, Mr. Hattori, teaches local Filipino student how to fold origami.
During the orientation, representatives from OPTIONS, Inc. underscored the importance of protecting children's rights in the Philippines. They shared with Peace Boat participants how JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) has provided OPTIONS, Inc. with equipment and tools which have enabled the students to engage in industrial training. Additionally, Japan was the biggest donor and supporter when super storm Yolanda wreaked havoc in the Philippines in 2015. While OPTIONS, Inc. is grateful for the external support, Maria Teresa Reyes-Vargas, the Executive Director of OPTIONS, Inc. also shared her vision for self-sufficiency and long-term sustainability for the Philippines, such that the Filipino government will lead the way when it comes to providing institutional and financial support. She noted that "It is the responsibility of the government to give this legacy to the children" and hopes that OPTIONS, Inc., along with other non-profit organizations, will be able to count on the government as its primary supporter in the near future.