Remembering the Sisters I Left Behind - Part 3 of 3
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.
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.
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.