Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick Reference Guide for Returning OFWs

This Quick Reference Guide for Returning OFWs is intended for returning overseas Filipino workers who are HIV-positive. The Guide lists essential legal, social, medical, spiritual, educational and financial assistance provided by government and non-government welfare organizations.

You may download the QRG at

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

KA JAM: Kabataan (Youth) Jobs and Alternatives to Migration

In line with the International Youth Day celebration, the MDG F Joint Programme on Alternatives to Migration: Decent Jobs for Filipino Youth is organizing an event titled “Kabataan: Jobs and Alternatives to Migration” or KA JAM. It will serve as a platform for the presentation of the key youth employment and migration priorities to His Excellency President Benigno Aquino III who will be the Keynote Speaker.
When12 August 2011
WhereSMX Convention Center, Pasay City, Philippines
Regions and countries coveredAsia; Philippines
Unit responsibleILO Country Office for the Philippines
Subjectsdecent work, employment, youth employment, young workers


In line with the International Youth Day celebration, the MDG Fund Joint Programme on Alternatives to Migration: Decent Work for Filipino Youth is organizing an event titled “Kabataan: Jobs and Alternatives to Migration” or KA JAM. This will be held on Friday, 12 August 2011, at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia in Pasay City. It will serve as a platform for the presentation of the key youth employment and migration priorities to His Excellency President Benigno Aquino III who will be the Keynote Speaker.

This event also coincides with the culmination of the International Year of the Youth. The United Nations recognizes that young people in all countries are a major human resource for development, positive social change and technological innovation. Their ideals, energy and vision are essential for the continuing development of their societies. Young people are not merely passive beneficiaries but effective agents of change. Dedicated, enthusiastic and creative, youth have been contributing to development by addressing society’s most challenging issues. In line with the United Nation’s commitment, the joint programme aims to contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) employment indicators (MDGs) by the Government of the Philippines, specifically: MDG 1 Target 1 B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.


The Philippines is known to have a dominantly young population with 19.3 per cent of its total population of 88 million (NSO, 2007) falling between the ages 15 – 24 years old. Of this, many young Filipinos are of working age. However, unemployment in the country is largely concentrated among young workers which in 2010 comprised more than half (1.460 million or 51.1%) of the total unemployed. This resulted to an unemployment rate of 17.6 per cent which was more than twice the national rate of 7.5 per cent. Double-digit unemployment rate was also noted among the college educated at about 11 per cent. Accounting for 1.163 million or 41.1 per cent of total unemployed in 2009, most of them have high “reservation wage” and consequently can afford to be unemployed or wait for better job offers.

Education is a first step to decent work and employment opportunities a second. In the Philippines, the drop-out rates at the public secondary education level is high. It is observed that for every 10 students that enter first year high school, only four graduate and finish fourth year high school. Unfortunately, both young women and men are at risk of dropping out of school due to poverty. Out-of-School Youths (OSY) and students at risk of dropping-out (SARDO) are forced to join the labor force to provide income for their families while women are faced with traditional child-rearing and housekeeping responsibilities that have also hindered young women from completing secondary education.

Meanwhile youth comprise about 35% of all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) which translates to a significant “youth” share in the national financial inflows associated with migration. While migration brings significant economic benefits, it also entails social costs to children. Children of migrant workers are left in the care of surrogate parents and are reported to contribute to a high-drop-out rate due to a diminishing interest to finish school, work or build a career, and a tendency to be overly dependent on remittances and are enticed to join parents to work overseas. Young workers outside the country expose themselves to the risks of migration such as exploitation and human trafficking especially among women.

With the support from the Government of Spain, the Joint Programme on Alternatives to Migration: Decent Jobs for Filipino Youth under the thematic window of youth employment and migration, better known as “JP YEM”, was developed by the UN Country Team agencies (ILO, IOM, UNICEF and UNFPA) in support to the Philippine Government’s vision of a productive and competitive youth. Specifically, it aims to achieve two outcomes over a period of three years: Outcome 1. Improved policy coherence and implementation on youth employment and migration through full stakeholder participation, in which the following outputs are expected and Outcome 2. Increased access to decent work for poor, young women and men.

The Joint Programme also aims to contribute to the attainment by the Government of the Philippines of the Millennium Development Goals: MDG 1 – Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; MDG 3 – Promote gender equality and empower women; and MDG 8 – Develop a global partnership for development. At the local government level, it provides direct services in the poorest regions of the country, focusing on four provinces with high incidences of out-of-school and poor youth, low enrolment rates, and where the MDGs , particularly Goal 1, are least likely to be achieved: Masbate (Region V), Antique (Region VI), Maguindanao (ARMM), and Agusan del Sur (CARAGA Region).

It is implemented in partnership with national government agencies with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as lead implementing agency, the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), National Youth Commission (NYC; the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); Provincial Governments of Agusan del Sur, Antique, Masbate, and Maguindanao; Private sector; Employers Organizations/Chambers of Commerce/Business Associations; NGOs/Workers’ Organizations; and Youth Organizations.


One of the major strategies to achieve the joint programme outcomes is the development and implementation of an advocacy and communications plan that will help persuade key decision makers and multi-stakeholders to address the various concerns surrounding the youth, employment and migration both at the national and local government level.

In March 2011, an Advocacy and Communications Planning Workshop was conducted at the TESDA women’s center to develop a plan that would support Output 1.1 the formulation and adoption of a National Action Agenda/Plan on youth employment and migration to inform local and national development processes. This was based on the premise that the Strategy Paper on YEM being prepared by DOLE Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) will have outlined key policy priorities that would include among others: a) Efficient labor market information systems to help the youth make smarter career choices, based on a proactive exchange of information among players in the labor market; b)Responsive career coaching and training modalities as preparatory measures intended to set the stage for the youth for the world of work; c) Strengthen Local Development Opportunities by advocating local government institutions to providing the policy environment for promoting youth employment in their community; d) Youth Awareness of Workers’ Rights and the World of Work to help reduce their vulnerabilities that may affect their rights at work, access to employment, social protection and social dialogue; e) Foster active, vibrant and sustainable partnerships with the private sector in terms of sharing resources and providing opportunities for entrepreneurship, training and employment; f) Harness development gains of migration and mitigating its social costs to strengthen youth employment policies and programmes; g) Championing the Youth as Partners in Development to influence policy and programs through active participation and leadership in affairs concerning youth employment and migration.

One of the key activities identified was the conduct of a high impact event on International Youth Day on 12 August 2011. This also marks the end of the ILO’s declaration of the International Year of the Youth (2010 – 2011). This one –day event is expected to be the platform for the presentation of the key priorities that will be the foundation for the development of the National Action Plan for YEM. The event will also have topic specific breakout sessions to discuss the recommendations of the strategy paper. The event hopes to attract 500 YEM advocates from government agencies, academe, youth groups, trade unions, employer’s groups and the development community and other interested stakeholders

For further information please contact

Ms Ruth Honculada-Georget
Joint Programme Coordinator
ILO Project on Alternatives for Migration: Decent Work Opportunities for Filipino Youth
10th Floor, GE Antonino Building
J. Bocobo corner T. M. Kalaw Streets, Ermita, Manila
Tel: +63 2 525 4483

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Be the Change: A Solidarity Speech

International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, Manila, Philippines, May 27, 2011

June 29, 2011

The Philippines is one of the seven countries worldwide that is experiencing an alarming rise in HIV. The situation is made worse by the fact that the government is nowhere to be seen when it comes to investing in prevention, care, treatment and support services for the people who need it the most. To this day HIV services in the Philippines are heavily reliant on foreign aid.

Rising HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people is mirrored in other countries across Asia and worldwide. Similarly, lack of political will to address the growing problem also spans across national borders. Regardless of a country's economic status, gay, bisexual men, other MSM and transgender people are persistently denied of proper health, dignity and livelihood.

The main objective of this speech was to inspire action from within the community -- not just in the Philippines but everywhere -- and to seek support from others who believe that everyone has a right to health, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

I am here today to bring greetings from the regional response to HIV. I am the coordinator for ISEAN (the Insular Southeast Asian Network for MSM, TG and HIV).

ISEAN is a regional network of community-based HIV organizations that provide services for men-who-have-sex-with-men (fondly known as MSM by some) and transgender people, covering the archipelago nations in our region.

I come with an update on the regional HIV epidemic and I unfortunately I am not the bearer of good news.

According to UNAIDS -- the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS -- when you look at the Asia Pacific HIV epidemic among the general population the trend is actually leveling off.

But there are variations in every country.

What we're seeing however is that HIV prevalence among MSM and transgender people is on the increase in a majority of Asian countries.

I've been traveling around the region recently, trying to build support for a multi-country initiative for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria to provide capacity-building for community systems. I won't go into that now, but do speak to me later if you'd like to find out about it.

In every capital city I've visited over the last month news has broken that infection rates among MSM have increased exponentially. I believe Manila is heading on the same direction.

So while we must acknowledge that the HIV virus itself does not discriminate and that there are other key affected populations at risk of HIV, the reality is that burden of HIV infection is felt heaviest among gay and bisexual men, other MSM and transgender people.

In 2008, the Commission on Aids in Asia warned that a new wave of infections was imminent, and that by 2020, fifty-percent of new infections will come from MSM and transgender populations.

But despite this grim news, the gay community, region wide, is suffering from what a friend of mine described as a "complicated relationship with omission."

Policy-makers know that HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men are skyrocketing, and yet, countries in our region are omitting any mention of men-who-have-sex-with-men from their national strategies.

National governments in our region are failing to heed evidence and allocate budget lines for prevention, care, treatment and support services that target men-who-have-sex-with-men in annual spending -- and the Philippines is no exception.

It's as if the regional HIV response has stepped into a scene of Harry Potter movie and our policy makers are going around the halls of the ministry quietly referring to "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."

How can we address the problem if we don't identify it in the first place?

I believe the situation is worse for the transgender community no recognition any in national statistics, let alone specialized services.

And yet, I've been told that HIV infection rates among transgender women are on track to be an explosive, yet hidden, epidemic.

Are we prepared for this?

Do our health systems have the capacity to deal with this situation?

Have we sufficient support structures to help the growing number of gay, bisexual and transgender people living with HIV to lead productive and happy lives?

How are we going to address the challenges faced by young gay and transgender people who face the prospect of living with HIV as they start their adult life?

Now, I have to admit, it's easy for me to stand here and point my finger at the problem.

It's easy for us all to blame the government for our woes.

It's easy for us to condemn society for the social norms that stigmatize and discriminate against people whose sexual orientation and gender identity do not fit the heterosexual status quo.

But in doing so we are absolving ourselves of responsibility. By continually diverting attention to external factors out of our control, we deny ourselves a role in making change happen.

It's time for this style thinking to end. It's obsolete, and it's nothing but a disservice to our region, our country, our communities, families, friends and loved ones.

It's time for us to see ourselves as part of the solution.

It's time for the community to come together, and demand sustainable health, livelihood and acceptance in society

If we don't do this for ourselves -- if we don't take the lead in this fight -- then no one will do it for us.

The policies of our land will not change unless, our community groups and leaders set aside their differences, come together in a unified voice and demand equal rights and protection under the constitution.

The government will not put their money whether their mouth is, unless we the people hold them accountable to delivering their promises with clear, measurable, time-bound, and well-resourced implementation plans.

Law enforcement practices will not change until, we actively seek Police participation at the discussion table when it comes time to talk about HIV prevention strategies.

Our family and friends will not see the light if we continue to hide our true selves from the people we love.

So on an important day of remembrance like today, we must also remember that the HIV epidemic will not shift, while people living with HIV refrain from having the loudest voice in the room, and remind decision makers that effective prevention strategies start with 100% treatment coverage for people living with the virus.

I mentioned earlier that burden of HIV infections is carried by gay, bisexual men and transgender people, and yet there are so few openly gay, bisexual men and transgender people living with HIV who are willing to share their story and dispel the myth that people like me are akin to lepers, and clearly, we are NOT.

Nothing will change unless more people living with HIV, especially gay men living with HIV, are ready to stand beside me and lead by example.

The choice lies with all of us to take this first step towards social change, and I am confident that once we do, many others will follow.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, is one from Gandhi where he challenged us to "BE the change we want to see in the world.

We should be actively making ourselves part of the solution.

We should be harnessing this frustration and anger that we collectively feel, and transform this into action that benefits all our communities.

We should recognize our own ability to change people's hearts and minds and proactively challenge them to think differently.

We should stand up for our brothers, cousins, uncles, friends and co-workers who would otherwise think that their sexual orientation or gender identity is a source of shame.

We should be brave enough to be comfortable in our own skin, no matter what which way you were born, or whatever your HIV status may be.

If we can take this action into our own hands, THEN we may finally be on the right path to fight HIV in our country, and in our region.

Thank you.

Laurindo is the current coordinator for two regional MSM and transgender community networks in Asia, and led the community team behind the successful multi-country MSM and transgender initiative in Round 10. He has had a diverse background in media, public service, private sector and activism and is now in the process of starting up a new regional social enterprise seeking social change through communication and technology. He can be reached at