After my conference in Geneva, I flew to London. I had requested the Philippine Embassy to set-up a dialogue with the Pinay OFWs, particularly the nurses. I have been working on our problem brought about the migration of our health professionals and knowing that we had a large number of nurses in the UK, I wanted to meet them.
Before the meeting, I chatted with Ambassador Lagdameo who is an old friend of my mom and dad. He knew my parents when they were still studying in the University of Michigan and actually gave me my very first present when I was born! Imagine that. It was a delight chatting with him. I asked him and Con Gen de Vega about their visit to the queen where the ambassador presented his credentials and they had to bow and curtsy 3x in keeping with protocol.
I was delighted to be among such an empowered group of Pinays! Among others, the group included a nurse, teacher, businesswomen, solicitor, domestic worker, chef and urban planner.
We had a lively discussion at the Embassy. Ambassador Lagdameo and Consul General Tess de Vega welcomed everyone. I began by giving the women a background of the issues affecting women and why I believe legislation and policies still need to be improved. I talked to them about the Magna Carta of Women. I also mentioned the Millennium Development Goals and the salary standardization law (see my previous blog on the discrepancy between the salaries men and women. I explained my work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), where I currently am the President of the Women Parliamentarians.
For this talk, I focused on migration issues and how migration affects both the OFWs and the families left behind. I emphasized the need to create more programs directed at the social impact on OFWs and their families.
After my talk, we had an open forum to give the women a chance to air their views and concerns. Many of them spoke of the long hours they endured to send money back home. Many worked 2-3 jobs! But despite the long hours, they felt rewarded and fulfilled in their ability to improve their standards of living and provide for their families.
They also spoke of the difficulty of being away from their families, the frustration of not getting the support and understanding they needed from loved ones back home. Many nodded their head, when one woman spoke about the despair of working so hard and yet feeling unappreciated.
They were a hardy happy set of women, confident about the lives they made for themselves in the UK. They spoke of improving their support system for newcomers to help them adjust to the lifestyle in the UK and the need to encourage Pinays to get better by getting a better education.
The next day I went to the Financial Learning Campaign sponsored by the Central Bank and the Philippine Embassy. I think this is a great program and committed my support for continuing financial literacy programs for the OFWs and their families back home.
In between those meetings, I was able to visit a few historic sites including the Tower of London and West Minister Abbey. I am an enthusiastic student of history, including English history. And I was thrilled to visit the places, I had only read about in the past. I have always believed that we can learn a lot if we look back into history.
Suffice it to say, at a time where women were subservient to men, England had a succession of Queens that ruled the land. Each of these Queens have their own stories to tell. I’ve been reading about the lives of queens, including Queen Katherine of Aragon (first wife of King Henry VIII), Queen Mary and her sister Queen Elizabeth (daughters of King Henry VIII). If I can find the time, I hope to blog about my thoughts on the lessons we can learn from the women and the Queens of England in 15 and 16 century England.