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Migrants Teaching and Mentoring Fellow Migrants

Persatuan Pekerja Rumah Tangga Indonesia Migran (Pertimig), an organization of Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia and Pinoy Worldwide Initiative for Investment Savings and Entrepreneurship (Pinoy WISE), an organization of Filipino domestic workers in Singapore, stand out among many migrant organizations in the ASEAN as exemplary advocates of financial literacy and sustainable reintegration for migrant women workers. Pertimig and Pinoy WISE were strong partners of ILO in the rollout of Reintegration and Financial Planning trainings among Indonesian and Filipino migrant women workers in Singapore and Malaysia.

Many of the leaders and members of Pertimig and Pinoy WISE were trained as trainers by Atikha, an NGO based in the Philippines, through the Safe and Fair Project: Realizing Women Migrant Workers’ Rights and Opportunities in ASEAN Region Programme, with funding from the European Union, led by the ILO with UN Women in collaboration with UNODC. After the training of trainers conducted by Atikha in 2021, Pertimig and Pinoy WISE conducted Reintegration and Financial Planning trainings among their fellow migrant domestic workers in 2022.

Pertimig and Pinoy WISE have endeared themselves to migrant women workers who participated in the trainings. The participants were all praises of Pertimig’s and Pinoy WISE’s conduct of the trainings and felt highly indebted to their trainers for ‘waking them up’ to take full control of their finances and families.  Most of the participants commented that the Reintegration and Financial Planning Training was the training that they all needed. They were grateful that their trainers and mentors, who were domestic workers like themselves, have taught, guided and mentored them on how to manage their finances wisely and handle their family problems properly.

Three migrant women leaders, Nashrika of Pertimig, Ma. Wilma Padura and Ivy Mintu of Pinoy WISE were the prime movers and lead trainers of the trainings.  Nashrika, Wilma, and Ivy benefited from earlier Atikha Family and Income Management Training in 2016. The three together with other migrant women leaders in Singapore and Malaysia were later trained by Atikha as trainers for the Reintegration and Financial Planning in 2022 After the training of trainers, the three women leaders felt that it was their obligation to help their fellow domestic workers by imparting what they learned from the trainings. In as much as their lives were turned out for the better by the knowledge and skills that they learned, they also wanted the same for their fellow migrant women workers.

Nashrika, 44 years old, married to an Indonesian national with two children, worked as domestic worker for 21 years. She stopped working as a domestic worker when she was hired by the International Domestic Workers Federation in 2018. Nashrika is the coordinator of Pertimig since its establishment in 2019.

Nashrika was grateful that she took part in the Family and Income Management Training in 2016. She learned a lot and since then managed her finances well. She was also glad that she participated in the Training of Trainers (TOT) on Reintegration and Financial Planning conducted by Atikha in Kuala Lumpur in 2022. Nashrika led in the conduct of two trainings participated by 90 Indonesian migrant women workers. She felt very happy and fulfilled as a trainer, learning from the participants themselves how they have applied what they learned to their lives. She shared: “They have changed a lot. They are managing their finances well. Many of them set achievable goals. They deleted their Shopee and other apps so that they could no longer be tempted to buy unnecessary things on line. Some sell food and handicraft items to further increase their income to finance their set goals. A migrant told me that she attended the first training and her husband observed some changes in how she managed the family budget,  so her husband decided to attend the second training. The husband appreciated the training and understood why his wife cut his petrol money.” Nashrika is proud that the trainings that they conducted have positively impacted the lives of the Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia. She added: “I feel happy for them. Previously they do not know how to manage their money. it is nice to hear that they now have savings plan to achieve their goals. Before, they do not do any planning at all. They just send their money to their families. When many migrants go back to Indonesia, they go home without any money.”

Nashrika is also proud of what she has become: “I improved a lot as a facilitator through the Atikha trainings. I understand that to do adult learning, I must lead interactive activities so that participants do not get bored and they could easily understand what I teach them. I feel proud of myself when participants say that the training was good, when participants send us positive feedback and evaluation. That feels good.” Nashrika is glad that her work among Indonesian domestic workers is supported by her husband and son. She shared that her son who tagged along with her during the trainings has positively changed. Hearing and seeing Nashrika train Indonesian migrants, her son gained confidence in speaking out and sharing his thoughts. His teacher has told Nashrika how her son has changed—before he was shy, an ordinary student, now he is confident and very active in school. Her son told Nashrika that he wants to be a trainer like her.

Ivy, 47 years old, a widow with two children, is the current training coordinator of Pinoy WISE. Like Nashrika, Ivy benefited from earlier Atikha trainings and became a trainer after the TOT on Reintegration and Financial Planning in Singapore.  Not only is Ivy a good facilitator and speaker during the trainings, she is a most sought-after mentor of Filipina domestic worker participants of the trainings. She made herself available to all their questions about their financial and familial plans. She shared: “I want to share what I have learned to my kababayans (countrymen) and even to other people of other nationalities. I want to share my own experiences, how I changed and managed my finances after I joined Pinoy WISE and attended the trainings. I learned not be extravagant. I learned to manage my wants in life. It is not bad to reward one self but it should always be within your budget. That is what I want to tell my fellow domestic workers.”

Ivy said that it is demanding yet very fulfilling to teach and mentor her countrywomen. She shared: “I am happy when participants thank me for training, guiding and mentoring them. I am glad to share to them how I applied what I learned from the trainings to my life. I am also glad when they ask for help in how to save more money and how to make good investments. I always tell them that it does not matter how little they can save, what matters is that they save regularly for in the long run, their savings will surely grow bigger.” Ma. Wilma Padura, 50 years old, single, worked as a domestic worker for 23 years in Hong Kong. Three years ago, she moved with her employer in Singapore. She participated in the 2016 Family and Income Management Training in Hong Kong and attended the TOT on Reintegration and Financial Planning in Singapore in 2022. Wilma acts as the current coordinator of Pinoy WISE-Singapore.

She could have returned home for good in the Philippines but she opted to stay in Singapore. She started saving through the years, thanks a lot to the Atikha training in 2016 which according to her changed her life around. She has a cacao farm and have made good investments, sufficient for her to settle back home. Why did she not go home for good? She shared: “The Family and Income Management Training was a wake-up call for me.  It dawned on me that I have been working for a long time abroad but I have not gained much. In fact, I lost a lot. I spent and lost a lot of money. I lost my loved one. I have no children. I lost my mother. I could not come home despite long years of work abroad. Everything was getting worse then. But after the training, I turned my life around. Things got a lot better. I saved a lot, bought tracts of farm land and made good investments. Hence, instead of coming home, I decided to stay and tell my story to fellow domestic workers. I want to speak to them that they, too, can change and turn their lives around. It has become my advocacy, to help ease the negative impact of migration. Migrants must be taught to set their goals, save money and manage their finances and families well. I must be a trainer to speak to them. I want to share what I learned and help them so that they would not experience what I experienced. I want to tell them the good news of Atikha about reintegration planning. I will be happy if I can be of help to change the lives of my fellow migrant workers, even just 10% of them.”

Nashrika, Ivy and Wilma agree that becoming a trainer for fellow migrant women is fulfilling and satisfying. Yet, it is also a burden, although a welcome one. Ivy said: “As trainers, we must always walk the talk. We should always be on our toes, as models to our fellow migrants. We must practice what we preach. For example, I am cautious of what I buy in Orchard. Migrants that I have trained might judge me for buying expensive and unimportant items, contrary to what I have taught them.” Wilma agreed with Ivy that in a way it is hard yet fulfilling to walk the talk. She also found walking the talk helped her be disciplined with regards her managing her finances. She added: “We must be at our utmost performance level. We have become public figures and we must live up to certain standards as leaders, trainers and mentors.”

The three migrant leaders also agreed that domestic workers are the most effective trainers on financial planning and family management for fellow migrant women. They opined that this is because they share the same life and work experiences as domestic workers, speak the same language and what they share as cases of managing finances and families are real and authentic. Migrant women trainers have been proven to be good motivators, trainers and mentors of fellow migrant women workers. They are often consulted even after the training by fellow migrant women workers in pursuit of their financial and family goals. Migrants always turn to their fellow migrants cum trainers and mentors for guidance and assistance. Yet according to Wilma, some migrant women still belittle their capacities as trainers, just because they are domestic workers. Some wrongly belittle them for not being professionals or for not having attained higher educational degrees. This negative sentiment among some migrants, however, has not dampened the resolve of Wilma, Ivy and Nashrika as they continue to train and mentor fellow domestic workers. They earnestly want to help fellow migrant women change their lives and that of their families for the better.   

The three migrant women leaders seek to continue what they have started and to reach as many migrant women workers in Singapore and Malaysia. Through more Reintegration and Financial Planning seminars, they seek to empower as many migrant women for them to take control of their lives and prepare for their eventual and sustainable reintegration to their home countries. Pertimig and Pinoy WISE had made use of the trainings not only to capacitate their members with various skills like facilitation and public speaking but also to invite more migrant women to become members of Pertimig and Pinoy WISE.

Pertimig and Pinoy WISE also like to make the most of the benefits of their participation in the ILO Safe and Fair Project. Through the project, Pertimig and Pinoy WISE developed partnerships, accessed resources and services and participated in the activities of government institutions like the Philippine and Indonesian Embassies and private and non-government organizations like Foreign Domestic Workers Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) and Malaysian Bar Council (MBC), and Our Journey (OJ). Meetings have been done  for Pertimig’s and Pinoy WISE’s future collaboration with their institutional and organizational partners in Singapore and Malaysia towards sustaining the conduct of Reintegration and Financial Planning seminars in the two countries.

It was wise for Atikha and ILO to enjoin migrant organizations like Pertimig and Pinoy WISE-Singapore to help roll out the financial literacy trainings among migrants. No one can be the best trainers of migrants than their fellow migrants. They share the same experiences, interests, motivations and aspirations as migrant women working in foreign countries away from their loved ones in their origin countries. But these migrant organizations, leaders and trainers must be ably supported. They do not have the time nor the resources to sustain the conduct of the trainings. They need to be recognized and accredited as reintegration and financial planning trainers, fully supported, and even compensated for their work. Only then can we speak of sustaining the empowerment of migrant women workers in the ASEAN.