Being part of a family that brings out the very best in you is really something one dreams of! If such a dream becomes reality, the many troubles and heartache that one suffers become a little more tolerable. This is how my life changed when the Batis family warmly embraced me as one of their own almost two years ago. I now feel like a changed person and it has been such an enlightening experience for me.
What is Batis AWARE?
Batis means stream, and AWARE stands for Association of Women in Action for Rights and Empowerment. The way we see it, Batis AWARE is all about streams of hope: hope for returned Filipino migrant women from Asia, Middle East and all over the world who are mostly victim-survivors of human trafficking, illegal recruitment and domestic violence. Most of the members are returnees from Japan who were abandoned by their Japanese husbands or partners and have single-handedly raised their chidlren (JFC: Japanese-Filipino children).
It is a self-help people’s organization, so most of the activities and tasks are voluntary. Batis AWARE was formed out of a study organized by Batis Center (The mother NGO of AWARE and YOGHI). YOGHI stands for Youth Organization that Gives Hope and Inspiration. It is the youth organization composed of JFC, 100% Filipino children and other transnational children of Filipino migrants.
Batis AWARE seeks to encourage women to be active and to participate in the organization so that they could help one another, recover and to stand on their own. The organization aims at providing them support in order to have strength to lead and share stories, promote women’s rights, and rights to equal labor and to network with other organizations.
We have four programs, 1. Education and Training 2. Networking and Advocacy 3. Membership and organizing 4. Social Enterprise Development
As a leader and president of my community, my vision is directly aligned with my organization. It is important for us to always consider the voice of everyone. Our decision-making is based on listening to every voice and being unified as one. We let each and every member speak up in every program or activities that we do. Transparency comes with a vision from good leadership which is why all my decisions are either based on everyone’s approval or support of Batis AWARE’s board members.
Basically what I do as a president is I represent the organization, most of the time I am in the field looking for partners and friends to network with the same advocacy Batis Aware has. I know that I am responsible for the smooth running of meetings, every month Batis Aware holds 1 core meeting consist of 5 officers and 4 coordinators, also general meetings every 3 months and general assembly twice a year,Batis Aware has 25 active members.I organize women and supervises the functioning of other elected officers and coordinators. Also I try to capacitate the members to the best of my ability in any aspect, and helping the organization in seeking funding to help sustain the programs and activities of Batis Aware.
Empowerment comes from learning and being receptive to feedback, which is why I share all my problems with the organization; knowing my fears, issues and dreams are safe here in Batis.
Just like the motto of an army: “What you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here!”
I feel completely at home when I am at the Batis office even though it’s only been two short years. There are some ‘Titas’ or members of Batis who have been here since it was started as WEP or Women Empowerment Program under Batis Center.
Batis has indeed brought out the best in me.
Networking and Advocacy
Advocacy cannot be complete without proper networking and it is something I love to do. Networking is a great source of meeting different and like-minded individuals who are not only seeking help but can provide you with great support.
I usually go out to meet other people and organizations to represent Batis Aware. I love attending advocacy events, like the forthcoming March 8th, International Women's Day. I am so excited to meet new friends, potential partners and organizations with the same vision. One part of this program is the Study Tour,
I had learnt the Japanese language Nippongo but seldom had the opportunity to speak the language eversince my return to the Philippines in the year 2010. So after five year of not uttering a single world, I was thrilled to conduct a study tour in the Nippongo language. It was just the right time to exchange knowledge about Filipino and Japanese language and culture. I see it as the best time and a great chance for my son Jun, who is a JFC, to bond with new friends possessing the same Japanese background. It is also a great opportunity for my daughter to communicate and learn Nippongo. I noticed that 2 years of holding a study tour, I feel like I speak better Japanese than ever before. What do we do in the study tour? We visit organizations that strive to help both Batis AWARE and students open their mind about the reality and culture in the Philippines.
We have visited organizations that support street children as well as those entities that look after abused and exploited children. In addition to this, we network with successful independent peoples organizations, and fair trade organizations, where Batis AWARE can open up for a social enterprise and development opportunities at the same time. KGU (Kwansei Gakuin University) in Kansai, Kobe Japan headed by Professor Joe Takeda is one of the Universities that yearly visits the Philippines for study tour. The KGU has entrusted Batis Aware to conduct trainings and host their students.
Last year in March 2016, after KGU’s visit, I was invited by SALA Asian Shokudo - a restaurant located in Kansai Area, Motomachi Kobe Japan. One of the students of KGU, Mr. Hibiki Fuse who visited Batis recommended me to the owner of SALA Ms. Naoko Koroda and asked me if I could paint on the wall of her restaurant. In June 2016, Naoko Koroda and Hibiki visited Batis to meet me and talk about the project which is a Mural in Kobe Japan.
It was such an exciting time and nerve-wracking it the same time. It was such an honour to work on such a prestigious project and have my hard work recognised. I couldn’t believe when I heard Naoko tell me to “paint whatever you feel, please paint your dream.” The realization that she liked my work was overwhelming. It was something that made me deliriously happy and I couldn’t stop talking about it.
One part of the advocacy is to give equality for the migrants living in Japan. After the painting, I visited KGU and speak about Batis , I spoke about its advocacy. Also on the last days, I visited Doshisha University in Kyoto Japan, headed by Professor Martha Mensendiek, Oh..she is so sweet, I actually met her once when Joe visited Philippines last March 2016, and that time was our 2nd time, but I feel like I knew her for a long long time. Same thing with KGU I also spoke about Batis Family, I spoke about my life and my experiences. I made it sure that they will tell this stories for the awareness of all. This year, KGU and Doshisha visited Batis Aware again and of course we conduct and organize the tour. Last year it was only KGU but now, Doshisha came to Philippines for study tour too. I feel great that they trust Batis Aware.
This is just half part of one program, I would love to share more or maybe one at a time. I am one of the blessed person who become a part of this organization and I can say nothing but grateful that I am part of Batis Family. All the supports from family and friends that I haven’t had before, I have it now . Its nothing but most precious gift from God that I will treasure until the end of time.
-Cecille Pauline S. Montenegro