Filipino migrant workers started arriving in Italy in the 1970s, forming what would eventually become one of the oldest migrant communities in Southern Europe. By 1986 their number had increased to 15,000 and to 50,000 by 1999. (Belleza, Life in Italy is no Dolce Vita, Isis International).
The increase in migrant labor was a new but rapid development in Italy. Understandably, there was a severe shortage in the country of groups that could respond quickly, appropriately, and comprehensively to the urgent needs of undocumented, vulnerable migrant women. The newly arrived migrants, in particular, badly needed information on their rights as migrants, as women and as workers living in Italy. This was the backstory to and motivation behind the formation of the Filipino Women’s Council by ten Filipino migrant women, mainly Rome-based domestic workers.
One of FWC’s founding members, Charito Basa explained: We simply wanted to help other women in difficulty, mostly victims of labor and sexual exploitation, and especially vulnerable because they were undocumented migrant women.
It is not surprising that FWC’s immediate project in 1992 was a center that could provide immediate relief as a shelter and at the same, extend counseling and other services for medium and long-term assistance and support to victims/survivors of rape, gender-based violence and labor exploitation. These services were also made available to non-Filipino migrant women workers. The center closed after two years due to problems with financial sustainability and staff capability building. However during that period, FWC was able to make a breakthrough in setting up and operating a migrant-oriented provider of services tailored to the sector’s needs.
The organization continues to sustain its commitment to Filipino women migrant workers, especially on the development of gender equality in our countries of origin and destination, through partnerships with various institutions and organizations in Italy and in the Philippines.
Vision and Mission
FWC’s vision is to break the ‘chain of poverty’ that exists in countries that send and receive migrants. It looks forward to the day when migration will not be a way to survive, at great cost to migrants, but simply be a personal choice for working people. Concretely for Filipinos, that means access to good jobs and opportunities in their own country.
FWC’s mission is to develop Filipinos as empowered migrant workers, who understand their rights as women, women of colour, workers and migrants, and will pursue the realization of these rights wherever they may be.
The original founders of FWC (May 1991)
- Charito Basa
- Nely Tang (deceased)
- Glenda Dolor
- Virgilda Flores (moved to the USA)
- Glora Jimenez
- Marilou Buenviaje (retired)
- Flotilda Evangelista (retired)
- Mother Irene Dabalus, OSB (retired)
- Violeta Bongat (retired)
- Joan Basa