Over the past two weeks, I attended two very cool migrant events, and I would like to share these experiences with you. Last Sunday, I was part of a workshop organized for marriage migrants here in HK. Today, I went to the UNIFIL Congress. At both of these events, I felt blessed to be included and so lucky to be in HK.
The event last Sunday, organized by APMM, discussed the struggles encountered by marriage migrants in HK. Marriage migrants, or “mail-order brides,” refers to the phenomenon of women from generally poor income countries marrying men in developed countries in hopes of living a better life. APMM released a study last year examining the trend in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. (You can download the study from APMM’s website. It’s a very interesting and informational read). Since the book launch, APMM has been trying to grow an international movement of marriage migrants by linking various organizations through their network called AMMORE. APMM hopes to establish a chapter here in HK, which is why we sponsored the workshop. The workshop on Sunday primarily focused on meeting each other and beginning to understand the troubles that marriage migrants face. About 10 women attended, six of whom were from Mainland China. Two aspects of the workshop stuck out the most to me. Firstly, all of the women from the Mainland grew up during the Cultural Revolution. We asked them to draw a “tree of life” and the roots represented their past. None of them drew or talked about deep roots. A few mentioned coming from extremely poor families, but none of them discussed actively missing their families in China. They all wanted to forget the past and look only toward the future. Secondly, the head of the Nepali Workers Union is married to a female, Filipina domestic worker, so they are both marriage migrants. They only spend Sundays together because she is required by law to live with her employer. Their child is in the Philippines living with her extended family. I was encouraged to hear these women (and man) speak so honestly and openly about their troubles. It was really cool to have a bi-lingual discussion (translated) about gender roles in marriage in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Nepal. But it was hard to hear from these women and their lives and feel helpless to address the situation.
The other event that I attended was UNIFIL’s congress. UNIFIL is an umbrella Filipino migrant organization here in HK. Almost 250 people attended the Congress from 32 organizations. UNIFIL sets the protest agenda, directs and organizes the workers’ movement. I was particularly affected by the faith that people have that their political system. Teddy Casino, a congressman in the Philippines, declared his intention to run for Senate. He is a staunch supporter and advocate of migrant rights. Also, UNIFIL declared its intention to run for three seats in the lower house of the Philippines legislature. In the US, we constantly hear people say “oh I don’t vote cause it doesn’t make a difference.” But here, even with a corrupt government, run by six or so families, the Filipinos here still believe that if they organize to vote better people into power, they will change how their government works. What kind of change could we make happen, if we just believed that we have the power to do it?