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Remembering the Sisters I Left Behind - Part 3 of 3

Forced into darkness.

In Part One and Part Two, I shared with you my background of going from slave to domestic helper to owner of a technology business. I will now share my advocacy to contribute to the world’s fight against the evil of human trafficking and modern day human slavery.

There are over 212 million migrant workers worldwide. Over 50 million of these are women employed as domestic workers and nannies.

We know that millions of these women have disproportionately fallen victim to human trafficking and modern day human slavery. They suffer abuse and desperately need our help, but my advocacy asks society to also realize there are millions of these women who are the exact opposite of helpless.

My advocacy seeks to engage the successful migrant workers to register their social media account and volunteer to receive alerts when a worker near them is in trouble. We seek to put boots on the ground at the local level to serve as a resource for family members back home who may be desperately fighting to save a loved one overseas.

Changing perspectives…

To change your perspective, I am asking you to acknowledge three things about these 50 million women employed as domestic workers.

First, acknowledge millions of us are successful and making positive contributions to the communities we serve.

Second, acknowledge that literally millions of us are technically savvy. We have mastered the use of mobile and social media technologies to communicate with family back home. In the Philippines alone, we estimate 4 to 5 million Facebook accounts are controlled by Filipino migrant workers.

And third and most importantly, acknowledge we are fully capable of joining and contributing in the world’s fight against human trafficking, if we are only given the opportunity to do so.

The Challenge...

For the purpose of explaining my advocacy and at the risk of over simplifying, there are three major obstacles in the world’s fight against human trafficking where migrant workers or their families can make a contribution.

1. The nature of evil.
2. The overwhelming numbers involved.
3. Relevant communications.

I will address these problems and our approach to them.

Problem 1: The nature of evil.

If you are going to systematically abuse a worker without the fear of being caught, then you cut off the person's communications with the outside world. You confiscate their phone. You force them into darkness. The nature of evil is it happens in the dark.

When a son or daughter goes overseas and then stops communicating, that is the first red flag that something has gone terribly wrong.

As simple as it may sound, every mother can detect when this happens. The silence they are hearing is a cry for help from the dark. If we learn to listen for this silence and then take action, we have effectively turned evil against itself. Their modus operandi is detectable.

Our solution is to provide family members with a place to report when communications has been cut. In the future, we hope to use the power of mobile technology to automatically detect when this occurs.

But detection is only half the problem. There will be times when we need boots on the ground in the local area. That leads us to the second problem. The problem of overwhelming numbers.

Problem 2: Overwhelming numbers.

The world is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers involved in human trafficking and modern day human slavery. However, we often overlook the fact millions and millions of the very people most susceptible to human trafficking are fully capable of fighting back, if we only empower them to do so.

We know Twitter succeeds because of overwhelming numbers. Facebook succeeds because of overwhelming numbers. When we apply concepts learned from social media, we discover no matter where a worker may be in trouble. No matter where a red flag may be raised, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of successful migrant workers nearby.

Our solution to overwhelming numbers is to use overwhelming numbers in response.

We provide a place for the successful migrant worker to register their social media account. If a worker near them is in trouble, we will send them an alert with a recommended course of action.

We launched in September of 2013. With zero publicity, we already have over 13,000 volunteers who have registered their Facebook accounts. We have proven that strong migrant workers are willing to watch out for the weakest and most vulnerable among them, if only given a chance to do so.

Problem 3: Relevant communications.

It does absolutely no good to alert a migrant worker in Dallas, Texas that a woman in Dubai may be in trouble. In fact, it is counterproductive.

Our solution uses targeted messaging to deliver a detailed alert with a recommended course of action to just those volunteers who are physically in a position to help.

What will happen, if you succeed?

We will have given the family members of the victims of human trafficking a place to go on-line to fight for a son or daughter and use the power of social media to amplify their cry for help.

We will have laid a foundation upon which to deliver other resources to the volunteer migrant workers in the network to help them increase their value in the workplace and fulfill the dreams they have for themselves and their families.

By engaging the least among us in community service, we will have given their life’s new meaning and given them the opportunity to interact with others who appreciate them for who they are and not what they do.

Where we are today?

Phase 1 of our project, is focused on registration. We can not help anyone without boots on the ground first. Our site is located at www.ofwwatch.com.

We currently have over 13,500 volunteers registered.

We have a staff of 9 programmers and social media specialists working on the platform. We will soon be releasing an Android app and have acquired the equipment we need to start work on the iPhone version.

What is the future.

We know the future is mobile, so our focus is there. We know the number of mobile phones will only increase and continue to grow in sophistication.

We envision a day when the right to use personal communication devices are as sacrosanct as the passport and affordable to all. We are trying to prepare for that future by getting into the trenches and learning now.

Remembering the sisters we left behind…

As a former domestic helper for 20 years, and an advocate for eight of those years, I developed relations and bonds with these women that will be with me forever. I consider them my sisters.

I know how people look down upon us. Society's perception of us is a very painful part of our existence. People somehow think the poverty that forced us to become domestic workers stems from a flaw in our character. It does not. But sadly, our status in society is so very low that sometimes we even fool ourselves into thinking we are worthless. We are not.

I believe when we reach out to our sisters and engage them in community service, we give their life new meaning and dignity that goes beyond the floors they mop and the toilets they clean.

My advocacy is meant to help the sisters who volunteer, every bit as much, as those victims they may save.

Thank you World Pulse

I want to thank World Pulse for giving those of us who have been empowered with technology a platform to remember the sisters we have all left behind.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Targeted messaging.
OFW Watch website

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Comments

kellyannaustin's picture

wow, wow, wow!

Dear Myrna,

I read all three of your posts and am so incredibly moved not only by your story, but by the life force inside of you that led you to imagine a better world for yourself and for those around you. Your vision for the use of mobile technology to aid some of the most marginalized in society is absolutely inspiring. I love that you have truly considered the technological capabilities alongside the tendencies of human beings in the conception of your project. We do have to pay attention to what humans do, for better and for worse, when we think through how to best connect and aid one another using digital technology.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your plans! I look forward to hearing more as things progress. :)

Wishing you strength and hope,

Kelly

MyrnaPadilla's picture

Thank you.

Dear Mam Kelly,

Thank you for your kind words. I apologize for neglecting comments here, but want you to know that I am deeply grateful for your encouragement.

As for progress, I am so excited. Yesterday, we launched a free mobile app to support my advocacy. It is for the Android, but soon we will release the iPhone and Windows versions. It is a good beginning and we are learning so much.

I am so proud of my team!!! They are all young Filipino programmers from poor backgrounds, but one day when we are gone and they are old, they will have become some of the best programmers in the world. And their first application will always be this one. They will remember that when they are old and when it is their turn to give back. I just know it. I am so proud of them.

Again thank you. Back to work for me.

myrna

kellyannaustin's picture

Dear Myrna, Can you tell me

Dear Myrna,

Can you tell me what Mam means? I'm not familiar with it and I'd love to learn. :)

I'm so proud of your team too! What wonderful work. It's so beautiful to read about.

Wishing you continued success,

Kelly

MyrnaPadilla's picture

What does "Mam" mean...

In my culture, when addressing a fully grown woman and wishing to show both respect and politeness, then you refer to them as Mam.

But looking at your profile and your smile so big, I think if you came to visit us then my employees would soon refer to you as Ate Kelly. Ate ( ahh tay) is still very respectful, but is used when we are more familiar. It means older sister.

When my employees talk about me they refer to me as "Ate Myrna". When people come to our office looking for help or seeking guidance they refer to me as Mam Myrna, but I hope by the time they leave they feel comfortable saying Ate Myrna.

Regards,

Ate Myrna

kellyannaustin's picture

Wow. So glad to be schooled.

Wow. So glad to be schooled. And, yes, Ate sounds nice. I'm also used to just plain Kelly! :)

So glad you're here, Ate Myrna (if I may!).

Kelly

Mauwa Brigitte's picture

COURAGE

Myrna Padilla,
Vraiment votre initiative m' a beaucoup inspiré de m'approcher auprès de vous pour en savoir plus des vos professions; peut être je serez canditate. J'apprecie votre façon d'aider les soeurs, vous leur donné la vie d'exister encore dans le monde avec la communication est un outil important pour faire véhiculé le message dans le monde.

Brigitte

MyrnaPadilla's picture

I want to respond...

But I do not know French and Google translate was no help. Forgive me please. Let see if Google translate means something to you. Google translate says...

Je voulais répondre. Mais je ne sais pas le français et Google translate était d'aucune aide. Pardonnez-moi s'il vous plaît. Voyons si Google translate signifie quelque chose pour vous.

myrna

Mauwa Brigitte's picture

Thank you

Myrna Padilla,
M really your initiative has inspired many to approach me with you for more of your professions, maybe I'll canditate. I appreciate your way
help sisters, you gave them life still exist in the world with communication is an important tool for the message conveyed in the world.

Brigitte

amymorros's picture

Amazing

Wow! I will comment here but I have read all three of your entries. Congratulations on your success. I have heard some terrible stories of abuse of overseas workers on the news and am so relieved to know that OFW Watch is there providing a much-needed outlet of support. And, of course, your story is so very compelling. I am truly sorry you had to endure so many abuses and I can't imagine what that was like for you. You have persevered and overcome some almost insurmountable obstacles and I wish you nothing but success.

Also, Google translate can be odd. There are several users who do speak French and I am sure someone will translate. I do speak some and I think she is saying (NOT a word for word translation): You have inspired her a lot and she wants to learn more about your work and maybe get involved (be a candidate). She appreciates your way of helping your sisters, you gave them life to keep on existing in the world though communication, which is an important tool for conveying the message to the world.

Amy
@amyinstl

Nusrat Ara's picture

Incredible. All the best for

Incredible. All the best for your future endeavors.

Love

Nusrat

mlf's picture

Gratitude and Humility

I am humbled reading your story and the story of your sisters. I am also grateful for your courage and your compassion. I am so sorry that you and so many others have experienced (and many still experience) such abuse. Thank you for this extremely important work that you are doing and for sharing it with others. Please know that you and all people in the world are worthy of love and belonging.
Miriam

Julia O'Byrne's picture

Wonderful ideas!

Hi Myrna,
Your post (and more broadly your ideas) are so well thought-out and presented. Everything you write makes so much sense and I absolutely love what you wrote here: "I believe when we reach out to our sisters and engage them in community service, we give their life new meaning and dignity that goes beyond the floors they mop and the toilets they clean." I completely agree with you. I think the idea of engaging other domestic workers to help when needed is a wonderful and really smart idea. The way you want to use the internet and mobile phones to bring all of this together is really inspiring too. I think you are right that each person having a personal communication device should be a right. Hopefully it's something we can all aspire to. I am so glad I've gotten the chance through World Pulse to read your story and your ideas and I look forward to reading more.

Best wishes,
Julia

MyrnaPadilla's picture

You got it!

You got to the heart of what we are trying to do. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

In another place and in another time, these same women would have had a very different role in society. Poverty and poor governance have forced them to mop the world's floors. In a simpler time, these same women would have grown to be respected elders of their tribe. They would have been revered and, in the case of the Filipina, many of them would have been some of the fiercest warriors of their tribe. I want badly to recognize them as something more than just helpless victims. They are so, so much more than that. I want the world to try to give their life new meaning by helping them become engaged in the world's fight against the evil that has overwhelmed us.

As a woman empowered by technology, I know it can be used to help all of us watch out for each other. I think it would be so powerful if the people we view as the lowest among us could teach us how to do that.

myrna

phoang's picture

Powerful and inspiring!

Hi Myma!

Like many other fellow commenters, I've read all three of your posts, and must say how amazed and inspired I am by you -- not only by the way you overcame those personal challenges early on, but also how you've managed it to turn it into a lifelong career helping millions of other domestic workers. Congratulations on all your success! Your story inspires all of us, and serves as a reminder that each and every one of us has the potential to contribute, whether big or small, to social justice and quality everywhere. Access to technology and information should be a right rather than a service for the wealthy and privileged.

I hope to hear more about your story, talk to you personally, or contribute to your endeavors in any way.

Thank you for sharing!

Phuong

MyrnaPadilla's picture

You are right!

I wish one day that technology and information becomes a right instead of a service. That is a concept worth fighting for. Until then we need to make the best of what we have. As women transformed by technology, we should do the best we can to teach the rest of the world how to use technology to watch out for each other.

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words.

Myrna

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