A couple of days ago, I watched a screening of the documentary Together Apart by Maren Wickwire. I left the place frustrated thinking how could this possibly happen?
The global demand for domestic workers has motivated labour migration from the Philippines and many other countries to more than 160 countries around the world. Women are working abroad for years or even decades, before returning home.
Together Apart is an intimate family portrait of two Phillipino women, a mother and a daughter, who left the Philippines to seek work abroad, for a “better future”.
The film contemplates notions of self-hood, belonging and care, shifting between serial migrants’ transitory present and projections onto the future.
When Guil Ann arrives on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to join her mother a domestic worker, the women reunite for the first time in over a decade. Joining the global workforce of Filipinas abroad, Carren (Guil Ann’s mother) spent most of her adult life apart from her children.
Only months later, unexpected events lead to Carren’s deportation and challenge both women to confront their precarious dreams for togetherness and a better future.
The whole documentary is about the life of Guil Ann in Cyprus, it also takes you to the Philippines after her mother was deported, showing the life of her children and family. But, don’t expect to see interviews of policemen, Cypriot citizens, or the exact deportation process.
In my opinion, this is what makes the movies’ narrative so strong, since these women are mostly unrepresented especially in Cyprus.
OFW (Overseas Philippines Workes) usually work 6 days per week and have only Sunday off. Imagine doing that for years … maybe decades. In addition to that, if they work at a house where they also happen to live in, it means that its 24/7 for 6 days a week.
There needs to be a line drawn between work and privacy. How does that leave them the space to have a private life? A relationship, education, family? These are literally basic human rights…
There was one lady in the audience, a contributor to the film, living in Cyprus for almost 20 years, she raises her own children here. Some of the girls feel more connected with Cyprus rather than the Philippines. She raised many issues the community deals with!
The fact that they are paid 309 euros per month says it all… It could be argued that they work more than anyone in Cyprus and are ridiculously paid!
If this exploitation isn’t modern slavery then what is?
As I said before money isn’t the only problem. There is legislation that needs to be changed! Cyprus is one of the few left remaining countries in the EU that refuse to change the ridiculous minimum wage for OFW workers.
They have no right to unemployment compensation, and if they fail to find a new employer within 30 days of being laid off, they become illegal.
In addition, if they wish to change an employer for whatever reason they need to stand in front of court and demand to have the right to change their employee. If they fail to do so in 30 days or if the court refuses their request, they are deported.
OFW workers by being nannies and by providing domestic aid have helped change Cyprus economy in many ways.
One good example is that numerous Cypriot mothers now have the opportunity to have full-time jobs, whereas this wasn’t the case many years ago where women were mostly housewives.
It is a pity though that this “luxury” has ended up being a form of exploitation against some people that come here for a “better future” and in some cases end up losing their “dignity”…