As a non-government, non-profit organization assisting distressed women
migrants returning from Japan, including their Japanese-Filipino children, along
with migrant domestic worker returnees from Asia and the Middle East, we have
worked relentlessly since commencing operation in 1996, assisting thousands of
women, by working toward our goals of promoting and protecting their rights and
Throughout our several decades’ journey we have developed, and continue to implement, and improve, four core programs and two support programs.
The Philippines commenced sending Overseas Performing Artists (OPAs) abroad during the 1970’s, of whom approximately 98% went to Japan. Of these OPAs in Japan, 95% were women, with the vast majority of the broader migrant workforce represented by men until the 1980’s.
The era of feminization of migration emerged in the late 1980s, when demand for services grew in the international arena with more women workers commenced joining the migrant workforce, marking a rapid increase in the number of women Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), most of whom were domestic workers and entertainers.
The 1990s and 2004 saw a massive increase in the number of Filipino women who were deployed abroad as OPAs. The figure declined in 1996, with the implementation of stricter laws following commemorations of the Maricris Sioson case in 1991 and the Flor Contemplacion case in 1995, however, there was an increase in the number of OPA deployments in 1997, reaching 74,000 in 2003, and approximately 71,000 in 2004.
It has long been evident that women constitute the more vulnerable sector among OFWs.
The Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), is aware that women entertainers, particularly those who work in Japan, are more vulnerable to exploitation due to the nature of their work.
With the increased number of women working in Japan as entertainers, problems arose, including the issue of Japanese-Filipino Children (JFC), with the burden suffered by some of the women who worked in Japan as entertainers being likewise borne by their children.
The Dawn of a New Day
Holding a common passion for helping these migrant women, several concerned individuals from diverse backgrounds met at a nun's residence in Quezon City to minister to the birth of a new organization that would serve the cause.
These six individuals were Aurora "Auring" Zambrano, an Immaculati Cordis Mariae (ICM) sister; Carmelita "Mel" Nuqui, who had extensive experience in helping women overseas workers; Pearl Domingo-Flores, a health worker; Julia Racquel Rimando, a Medical Doctor; Leonardo Morada, a pastor; and Corazon Valdez-Fabros, a lawyer.
Thus, on February 6, 1996, DAWN was registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a non-stock, non-profit organization, in order to address the growing number and concerns of, distressed Filipina migrants from Japan as well as the growing number of JFC abandoned by their Japanese fathers.
DAWN’s inaugural aim was: to protect and promote the rights and welfare of Filipina migrants and their JFC; to help them regain and enhance, their sense of dignity and self-worth; and reclaim their wholeness, in the process of their reintegration into their families and the larger Philippine society.
DAWN now continues working towards these aims and has evolved and expanded to advocate for the rights and welfare of Filipina migrants returning from other Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
The Dawn of our Japanese Networks
Immediately following DAWN’s establishment, Sr. Auring Zambrano and Ms. Mel Nuqui were invited for a series of meetings in Japan to explore possible areas of cooperation with different Japanese organizations.
During their visits, much was learned about the problems facing migrants in Japan, with one of the biggest challenges being the overstaying of women who continue to work despite the lack of proper visas. Sr. Auring says that a lot of women “are forced to go into prostitution in order to remain in Japan and survive.”
Other problems they noted were drug trafficking and addiction, divorce and complicated relationships with Japanese men or other Filipinos with families in the Philippines, domestic violence and abandonment.
This prompted DAWN to actively seek out partners who could assist them in helping these women, including their children, to rebuild their lives.
DAWN works hand-in-hand with the Citizens' Network for Japanese-Filipino Children in Tokyo, the Asian Women Empowerment Project based in Kobe, the Japan International Center for the Rights of the Child of Osaka, the Lawyers for Japanese-Filipino Children based in Japan, the Kitami Maligaya in Hokkaido, JICHIRO, the Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center, and various Philippine-based organizations.
In DAWN’s early days, the organization relied on Board members and incorporators for the implementation of its programs and services.
Donations from Filipinos and Japanese friends provided the initial funds for DAWN's programs.
Volunteers continue to lend their hands in the running of the programs.
Among the first volunteers who provided support to DAWN was Ms. Agnes Mineko Hara, a retired Japanese teacher, who gave SIKHAY members Nihongo lessons twice a week.
Ms. Hara has remained a valued supporter and dedicated DAWN volunteer, providing Nihongo lessons to JFC every Saturday, along with tutorials in mathematics.