The case of Bonita Baran

For many years, household helpers or “kasambahays” have been playing significant roles in many Filipino families here and abroad. They take care of our everyday needs, our household, serves as second parents to our children and sometimes they become our confidants, our friends. Every day, they make our lives easier but some of us tend to forget of that they have their own needs, they have their own families who were the very reason why they are in our household. Some have become insensitive and sometimes abusive of our kasambahays.

In the Philippines, there are about 600,000 to 2.5 Million domestic workers. Majority of whom are women and girls. Due to the very nature of domestic work which is within the private sphere of the employer’s household and informal arrangements, abuses of household workers still remain rampant and hidden, making them one of the most vulnerable sectors. This is exactly what happened to Ms. Bonita Baran. Ms. Baran who hails from the province of Catanduanes came to Manila in search for work at the age of 16. She was employed by the Marzan’s in 2007. For 5 years, she was confined in her employer’s home doing all-around work, received a meagre salary of P700 a month, physically and verbally abused, no day off, no any social insurance benefits and disconnected from her own family and the outside world. Her employers basically trampled and stripped her of her rights.

The Philippine Commission on Women where i am presently employed vehemently condemns this unjust and inhumane treatment of household helpers. Ms. Baran is just one of the estimated 2.5M in the country. You can just imagine how many more of her are currently being abused and hidden in their employer’s private homes.

Urgent actions from the lawmakers have to be made especially at the lower congress where the legislative bill known as “Kasambahay Bill” has been pending for months. These lawmakers have yet to realize the significance of enacting this bill into law which will ensure rights and welfare for our “Bonita Baran”s.

(Jemelle Milanes works for the Philippine Commission on Women. This piece originally appeared at Pulse Wire’s Voices Rising. Thanks to World Pulse and Jemelle Milanes for this collaboration.)

(Photo Credit: Rem Zamora / YouTube)