Xyza Cruz Bacani : Let the voice of children of migrant workers be heard

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International award-winning photographer, Xyza Cruz Bacani has called before children of migrant workers to have their voices heard. This is so that the impact of migration on the family of migrant workers would be known.

Bacani, a daughter of both migrant workers, and also a former migrant worker, said “I was a child left-behind by my migrant mother when I was eight. I grew up without her so I know how challenging and painful it was to be away from my own mother. Migration has touched our family’s lives in so many ways. My story is not unique, it is the story of millions of children left behind by a migrant parent.”

Bacani joined “conversation” with Dr. Lucy Jordan, associate professor at the Department of Social Work, The University of Hongkong (HKU), and PathFinders’ CEO Catherine Gurtin, in a panel discussion on Thursday (May 11) to discuss the importance of exploring strategies and opportunities for cross-sector collaboration to ensure all children affected by migration are protected and respected.

Also launched on that day was Children at Heart of Migration a new report published by PathFinders in collaboration with The University of Hong Kong (HKU).

“According to our research, which discusses the longer-term impact of growing up in transnational families on children across Southeast Asia, there is a potential ‘crisis of care’ in the region as increasing numbers of parents migrate overseas for work, leaving their children behind,” Dr. Jordan explained.

At the moment, she told that very little is known about the longer-term costs and benefits for children and other family members who remain in migrant-sending countries.

Through the said report Dr. Jordan said they  hope to start a conversation that “makes a case for the development of effective policies and practices around labour migration both within origin countries and within destination regions, such as Hong Kong.”

As observed and assisted by PathFinders for the last 15 years, Gurtin said that migrant domestic workers (MDW) may fall victim to love scams, sexual abuse, and unplanned pregnancies while living and working in Hong Kong.

“With the population of MDWs set to almost double over the next 20 years, we need to act now to prevent an emerging and potential crisis for migrant children,” she stressed.

For her part, Bacani – also a former migrant worker – raised the importance that migrant workers should have confidence before leaving their home country.

Because of this, “a Pre-departure orientation or knowledge of the host country’s laws, rules and culture” should be given.

The panel likewise called on relevant stakeholders to set up effective safeguarding mechanisms to prevent any negative social impacts of migration on children.

They include the following: pre-departure preparedness that provides comprehensive training in sending countries tailored with destination country information.

There also must be on-arrival support which strengthens comprehensive training provided in pre-departure preparedness on arrival in the destination region.

Community education and empowerment are also crucial as well as developing employer awareness of MDW as mothers to increase empathy and ensure they provide the structural conditions to facilitate more effective transnational parenting and also conduct further research to understand and more clearly establish the link and potential impact of migration on child protection, health, and development, specifically including both origin and destination regions.