THE PHILIPPINES’ “good practices” in migrant workers’ policy is a model that Bangladesh would want to copy, according to Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni.
“We would like to share your experience in promoting the rights of your expatriate workers, especially women expatriates,” Moni said in an interview on the sidelines of the three-day Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development (SNAMMM), which ended Thursday.
She said the Philippines’ protection of, support services for and enhanced development benefits for its migrant workers have made it one of the acknowledged leaders in global migration and migrants’ protection.
She cited the “good practices” being adopted by government agencies, including regulatory frameworks for recruitment and minimum standards in employment contracts.
“We would like to share your experience and learn from your experience,” said Moni.
She noted the important role that nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and civic groups here have played in this sector.
Exchange of experiences
She said Bangladesh, located in the Indian subcontinent, has the most active and the largest number of NGOs—big and small, local and foreign—in the world. It also has many homegrown efforts in poverty alleviation and women empowerment and education, she added.
An exchange of experiences in migrant workers’ protection between the Philippines and Bangladesh, apart from trade and investment, would therefore be a plus factor in their bilateral relationship, she said.
Moni said Philippine-Bangladesh relations were “wonderful.”
“We have a very good relationship. But there is always room for improvement, especially in trade,” she said.
Trade between Bangladesh and the Philippines is almost negligible. In 2007, Philippine exports to the South Asian country amounted to $22.82 million. Imports were $5.2 million.
Moni, a 45-year-old mother of two, is a physician and member of parliament as well as the first woman foreign minister of her country.
But she doesn’t consider her achievement uncommon or extraordinary.
“I’m not a star because in my country there are many stars. You see, Bangladesh has achieved a great deal in women empowerment,” she said.
There are six women MPs in the Cabinet, including the prime minister and the heads of the foreign, home, agriculture and labor ministries, and women and children’s affairs. There are 45 reserved seats for women in the 300-seat parliament who are directly elected nationwide.
Moni, who represents Chandpur-3 district, has focused much of her work on women’s rights and entitlements, health and human rights.
“I still see patients in the villages in my constituencies. Sometimes whenever I get the chance, even if I don’t myself see patients, I organize medical missions in my constituencies in the villages, especially in the remote ones,” she said.
A specialist in public health, Moni is a product of the Dhaka Medical College, Bangladesh’s premier medical school, and the US-based Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and the University of London.
Moni said she was happy to take part in the SNAMMM in Manila, and was all praises for the leading role that the Philippines has played in promoting interfaith dialogue to foster world peace and end global conflicts.
She deplored the intolerance of certain religions, particularly of Islam in some countries.
“If we create boundaries and if we try to ban symbols of certain religions, then this is an expression of intolerance and that should not happen especially when we need to come closer,” she said.
Moni called for an end to stereotyping and profiling based on religion and culture, particularly when attributing acts of violence and terrorism, just because the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, happens to be a Muslim.
“Terrorists are terrorists. They don’t have any religion, any faith, any culture, any country even. They are terrorists,” she said.
She said there has been a lot of stereotyping and profiling of Muslims as terrrorists in the Western world.
“That’s not fair. Not only is it very unfair, it will give rise to a lot more intolerance in the world. It will create distances, not bring people together,” she said. –Cynthia Balana, Philippine Daily Inquirer