DUBAI // A women’s rights group that campaigns against the sexual abuse of migrant workers has laid out its aims for the coming year.
Gabriela – the General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action – hosted its general assembly in Dubai.
The group, comprised of volunteers, offers advice to Filipinas on everything from labour issues to rape, sexual intimidation and harassment.
“We’re here to specifically help women, because often they are the most vulnerable type of migrant worker,” said Gabriela’s chairwoman, Melca Perez.
“Oftentimes when they are faced with some form of sexual harassment or violence, they don’t know what to do.
“We are here to provide them counselling, free legal advice, or to refer their case to the consulate.”
Gabriela started operating officially in November 2011, and the assembly was the second held by the local group.
Ms Perez said the group had received 20 queries in the first nine months of this year. The most recent was from the employee of a female domestic worker who had been raped.
A month earlier, three Filipino women contacted the organisation for advice after they reported sexual harassment by their employer to the police.
Ms Perez said about 50 per cent of cases reported to the group were related to sexual violence, with the remainder labour or debt issues.
The group has about 70 members, most of them domestic workers.
“They want to know how they can protect themselves and also help others,” Ms Perez said.
“Domestic workers are by far the most vulnerable group of migrants, because sometimes they don’t even get a day off.
“They’re not machines. We want to let them know they’re rights under UAE law so they can be protected.”