Financial Literacy — from 2009, still a continuing FWC Programme
The concept of financial literacy starts from an analysis of the so-called two faces of migration—the positive and the negative.
The positive refers to the increase in the income/economic standing of migrant workers and their families due mainly to the favorable exchange rate and in many cases the multiple jobs that they shoulder. The negative on the other hand refers mainly to the human and social cost of migration—chiefly, the separation of families and its impact on relationships, especially those of parent-child and husband-wife.
The financial literacy strategy is to stabilize and prolong the positive effects of migration while minimizing its negative effects. On the economic aspect this means developing a good mindset and habits such as learning how to manage money, avoiding unnecessary expenses and going into debt, keeping within a balanced budget and saving money for the future. This applies both to returning migrants and those who opt to integrate into the host country. Returning migrants will need to replace their previous sources of income. Those who stay will also have to replace and supplement their previous sources of income. Thus financial literacy stresses the importance of savings and investments by the migrant worker.
There are partnership efforts by government, the private sector and NGOs to conduct financial literacy orientation and training seminars. The NGO Atikha, in partnership with the Filipino Women’s Council (FWC) and Comitato Internationale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP), with the support of the European Union-United Nations Joint Migration and Development Initiatives (JMDI) conducted a training of trainers (TOT) on financial literacy among migrant leaders in Rome and in Milan in 2008 and 2009.
The general objective of the projects implemented was to ensure that migrants will be able to save and invest and address family issues so that they can successfully integrate in Italy or reintegrate with their family in the Philippines The methodology being used in the seminar is a combination of lecture discussion and workshops to be able to apply what they learned on financial planning and addressing family issues. Participants are expected to:
1. Be aware of the various economic and social issues of migration and the barriers to reintegration;
2. Understand goal setting, budgeting, financial planning and borrowing and ensure together with their families to apply what they learned;
3. Identify and address their issues and concerns that cause estrangement in relationships and drain their resources to enable them to achieve family goals for migration.
The topics of the seminar are:
Part 1 – Overview on the Duality of Migration and Concept of Migration: Development
Part 2 – Financial Planning
Part 3 – Why are we not able to Save and Invest? Addressing Family Issues that Drain their Resources
The FWC is able to continue the conduct of financial literacy seminars, thanks to the support and partnership of the OWWA – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
The first initiative in such partnership was through the project “Maximizing the Gains and Minimizing the Social Costs of Overseas Migration in the Philippines” (http://www.maximizingthegainsofmigration.org/ – being renewed by CISP to reactivate site) implemented in 2009-2011 — an endeavor that mobilized Filipino migrant and hometown associations in maximizing the development potential of migration whilst minimizing its social cost on migrants and families left behind.
Results and lessons learned
Creation of increased awareness of the Filipinos and other stakeholders on the issues of migration and development and migrant social and civil rights in Italy by updating, reprinting and disseminating 2,000 copies of the Guide for Filipino migrants in Italy.
A public forum was also held reaching 312 Filipino migrants and leaders in collaboration with 6 associations and confederations in Turin, Naples, Florence and Rome. Fora and consultation meetings on the nexus on migration and development addressed to local authorities and associations in the Philippines were also held. Specifically, 5 consultations on migration and development and integrating migration in the local development plan with local authorities and associations were conducted in the Philippines, attended by 318 participants from 5 provinces, 20 cities and municipalities.
In 2010-2011, even before the closure of the EC-UN JMDI project, a similarly important activity was implemented in partnership with Atikha, entitled “Mobilizing Migrants Resources Towards Agri-based Cooperatives in the Philippines” (Link to website: http://www.atikha.org/projects/ifad/mobilizing-migrant-resources-towards-agri-based-cooperatives-in-the-philippines.html) which was supported by the UN-International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the program Financing Facilities on Remittances (FFR). The conduct of financial literacy activities has continued to date with the support and in partnership with the OWWA office in Rome. FWC has conducted more than 50 seminars in key cities in the regions of Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria, Campagna and Reggio Calabria targeting approximately 1,500 OFWs and their families.
FWC’s– Gender and Development activity
FWC prepared GAD modules and held a dry run on May 2015 exclusively for FWC members. Following that, two seminars were conducted at the Philippine Embassy with the participation of the staff upon the request of Ambassadors Virgilio Reyes and Domingo P. Nolasco of the Philippine Embassy in Rome. Another seminar was held with the participation of all officers and staff and family members of the Philippine Consulate General in Milan.
For the GAD activity, FWC designed and used two 2 modules on Gender Awareness and Introduction to Violence against Women.
Gender Awareness is primarily aimed at empowering both women and men to take control over their lives and make strategic life choices where such abilities were previously denied to them. The module introduces the importance of studying gender and development and mainstreaming women’s needs and perspectives that will benefit both women and men. It provided an introduction to key concepts, definitions, and issues — in order for participants to understand gender relations in their own lives and in relation to others and to enable them to understand sexual and gender issues. Also, how to appropriately respond to incidences of such issues and disparities. It talks about the history of women’s struggles for equality with men in the Philippines, with special stress on The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The Convention, adopted by the United Nations in 1979, was ratified by the Philippines, and Article 2, Section 15 of the Philippine Constitution declares that: “The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.”
The introduction to Violence Against Women (VAW) module provides definitions and examples of forms of domestic violence and the consequences of physical and sexual abuses, having short and long-term social, economic, mental and physical health impacts on victims, who are mostly women. The module also presents Italy’s very strict policies on VAW because of the growing phenomenon of women victims and provides information and ways to get help and all the available services in different areas of Italy.
On the overall, GAD activities enjoyed very high interest among the participants. Past seminars were held in Siena, Milan, Bologna, Naples and several in Rome. The activities are conducted by FWC in partnership with the support Philippine Embassy and OWWA – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, in Rome in their role of promoting gender and development.
Lobby and advocacy
The organization has been a resource for institutions in Italy, in the Philippines both at government and non-government levels for over 20 years now, most especially that FWC has been active participant to the United Nations, the European Commission’s consultation meetings related to gender, migration and development. Below are some of the reports of such active participation.
Living in Italy: pathways to social integration
In an effort to promote the integration of the Filipino migrants, the Philippine Embassy high-ranking officials has commissioned our organization, the Filipino Women’s Council (FWC) to prepare a module on what we think were the most important points to discuss in a Post-arrival Orientation Seminar (PAOS) aimed to target Filipino migrants who have recently arrived to join their families.
Despite the decline in the influx of Filipinos to Italy, Philippine Ambassador to Italy Domingo P. Nolasco has emphasized the importance of PAOS in enhancing the capacity of Filipino migrants to cope with the new challenges and opportunities of living and working in Italy.
So we decided to do a crosscutting presentation that would contain key social, economic and labour issues that we have often encountered in our many years of work supporting the domestic workers. We initially made a very thorough research on the current policies, labour and market trends, training programmes and jobs available for those who were looking for jobs, or wishing to upgrade their capacities to find another job.
On December 2, 2018 therefore, the Post-Arrival Orientation Seminar was held at Teatro Aurelio, in Rome—with the complete attendance of all Embassy officials and staff, and with the participation of over 100 domestic workers, mostly women; including representatives of Filipino community organizations in Rome and nearby cities.
Our presentation started by enumerating and explaining a few relevant articles of the Italian Constitutions where fundamental rights, i.e., civil, political and social rights are FOR ALL. The current migration and integration policies for migrants were explained in detail, and provided a list of key institutions providing free social services; guidance on how to keep-up with legal processes; available training programmes; including the labour market trends and manpower needs in the country.
As we have observed through our years of dealings with the community, learning the Italian language properly is particularly a huge problem for many. This has been a major hindrance to integration of the Filipino migrants, especially for the domestic helpers who are most of the time within the confines of homes of employers and therefore are unable to interact well with the host community. Many who have had professional work experiences prior to migration are trapped to domestic and care works. Hopefully, the situation may change in the future. For the second and third generations who would continue to pursue studies, with supportive parents, could change the trend.
We also dedicated a section in our presentation on the misconceptions of many Filipino migrant workers in living and coping with issues in Italy. A very lively discussion and clarification of rights and responsibilities as migrant workers was underlined by the one of the resource persons — the Don’ts (what to avoid or not do), that we based mainly from the most common misdemeanours and improper actions made by some members of the community in the country.
Many of these mistakes often lead to irregularity of documentations and lack of proper attention on policies and regulations that often affect access to many social services such as medical assistance and healthcare, social contribution, etc. Highlighted also are the growing concern on drug abuse, domestic violence; over-indebtedness; family break-ups and ensuing consequences on children, their education, and well-being of the whole family.
Officials of the Philippine Embassy and its partner agencies, i.e., the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Social Security Services and Pag-IBIG also outlined their various programs and services available.
FWC provided hands-on information based on our working experiences and most often referring to policies, including the distribution of hand-outs with a lists of relevant integration policies, addresses and links of many integration services for information.
The seminar was first of its kind; and the Embassy officials, FWC and all participants wished that such activity could continue because migration policies in Italy will keep on changing.
by Charito Basa, Dona Rose Dela Cruz and Flora Ventura