Founded in February 2000, and registered with the SEC with a 7- member Board of Trustees led by Nelia Sancho as the President, Buhay Foundation for Women and the Girl Child took its name to mean "life choices" and gave significance to the right of women for self-determination.
The Foundation has 15 founding members, all women. Today, the Foundation membership numbers some 60 women all of whom are women’s rights advocates, and come from different parts of the country, while 3 founding members are based overseas, working on migrant and trafficking in persons issues.
Mission and Objectives
Our vision is a sovereign, self-determining society where people participate in decision making, is gender fair and child sensitive.
Our mission is to be a women-led organization that provides a focal point and stimulus for the social, political and economic empowerment of women and the advocacy and defense of the human rights and full development of the Filipino people particularly women and the girl children. In order to promote women’s human rights, we aim to examine and address socio-political economic realities from the perspectives of women’s life experiences, and contribute towards socio cultural transformation processes leading to a positive environment for the recognition, protection and realization of the rights of Filipino women and the girl child nationally and internationally.
Our specific goals and objectives are to advocate for the human rights of Filipino migrants, trafficked persons, domestic workers, WW II Filipino “comfort women” survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery, women affected by HIV –Aids, women with disabilities, women in situations of risk and violence, and women who face stigma and discrimination in whatever occupation they find themselves in. We aim to undertake programs to empower Filipino women and the girl child and to transform their situation of vulnerability.
Strategies and Priorities
1. Take a gender and rights based approach to addressing the concerns of women migrant workers and trafficked persons and in ensuring their rights are respected and respected.
2. Promote the incorporation of human rights standards including those outlined in international human rights instruments and treaties such as the Palermo protocol on trafficking in persons (supplementary to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime), CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), the UN Convention on Migrant Workers and their Families, the international humanitarian law, among others.
3. Promote the empowerment and self –organization of women such as the ex-comfort women, trafficked persons, the migrant women workers; strengthen their capacities; and ensure their voices in policy making processes that advocate for justice and changes in their social and working environments, and allow them to claim for their rights and benefits.
4. Promote policy dialogue, advocacy and sharing of good practices as well as critique of practices that promote harm to affected sectors of women and girl children as well as undertake necessary researches and studies to determine current trends and situations.
5. Raise awareness of communities of the human rights issues and change of perceptions –from victims to empowered agents of change, self-determination and transformation, and facilitate capacity building as well as nurturing of self-esteem.
Current Programs and Projects:
1. Advocacy for justice and human rights of the Filipino “comfort women” victims of Japanese military sexual slavery in WW II .
The program started since year 2000. The main activity was the conduct of interviews and researches and publication of the survivors stories into a book in September 2007, as well as a lobbying campaign for legislative resolutions to support legal redress by the Japanese government for the Filipina ex-sex slaves – victims of a war crime when they were still young girls, during the period of the second world war and the three year Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
2. Advocacy for Rights of Migrants and Trafficked Persons.
From 2003-2007, the Buhay Foundation started its work on migrant rights and a rights based approach to trafficking in persons issue. Some of the cases of individual migrants that have been handled by the Foundation, besides human trafficking cases, were : violation of contract agreements such as substitution to downgraded jobs with lesser pay (i.e. from nursing to domestic work), severe conditions of work, employer abuse and attempted rape to a Filipina migrant, etc. Work done by the Foundation included liaison with the families of migrants and with the government’s Department of Foreign Affairs –OFW Section to get the Philippine embassies in the respective countries (such as those in the Middle East region and in Malaysia) to assist the exploited migrants. The Foundation followed two cases of Filipinas who migrated to Japan thru a trafficking syndicate , and another woman migrant to the Middle East. Both cases of the trafficked Filipinas resulted into suicidal attempts because of severe trauma suffered by the victims.
As a result of these cases, the Foundation has decided to open up a space in Manila City for temporary shelter services for returning distressed migrants who needed some psychological support and reflection space before availing of legal aid services or deciding to return to their families in the provinces. However, the open shelter could not yet be fully operational as the Foundation still needs to undertake sourcing for funds to be able to afford a fulltime paid social worker and psychologist who will work with the retuning migrants. Last November 2007, its program coordinator – Natalie Kaye Ganipis, and Board President – Nelia Sancho, attended the International Congress organized by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) in Bangkok, Thailand to study the findings and recommendations of an 8-country report, Collateral Damage which evaluated the impact of anti-trafficking measures on various groups of migrants.
In the meantime, the Board of Buhay Foundation has decided to embark in the year 2008 its advocacy work for the human rights protection of migrants and trafficked persons. The Foundation is currently preparing for two forum events and a training workshop being held from Sept. 21-24, 2008 for practitioners of anti-trafficking work both from the NGOs and the local government in Davao City (south of the Philippines) using the monitoring guidelines set up by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights To Promote Human Rights of Trafficked Persons, as well as undertaking a review of the implementation of the Palermo protocols on trafficking at the local level and the human rights impact of anti-trafficking initiatives.
3. Advocacy Program for HIV -Aids Prevention Using the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Advocacy. The program aims to guide policy making at the national and international levels. The Foundation seeks to bring together practitioners in the HIV Aids issue and the women’s rights groups to dialogue on how to effectively prevent and stop HIV Aids thru a human rights framework linking the advocacy of sexual and reproductive health rights to the HIV Aids issue.