By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Mar. 11, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Over a hundred women and their supporters in San Francisco, joined the rest of the country on Friday, to celebrate International Women’s Day. They called for an end to low-wage jobs for women, increase access to health care and education and protections from violence against women.

Joining the event were immigrant women — Filipino mothers who made the sacrifice of leaving their families behind to work in a foreign land.

Fifty-three-year old Rowena Viray moved to the U.S. in 2006, leaving behind her three children and five grandchildren in the Philippines. She said, “I came here to support my children, make sure they have a brighter future ahead of them.”

Viray works as a caregiver and only gets paid about $1,000 a month. Though she’s barely getting by, she still sends money to her family back home.

Nikki Brown-Booker, a Filipino-American psychotherapist who has severe rheumatoid arthritis, hires Filipino caregivers for her day-to-day needs.

She said, “Many of them would work long hours to send money back to their families so their kids would be cared for. It’s a very sad situation. It didn’t seem right that their kids were not with them.”

Philippine government data show that every year, more than a million Filipinos leave to work abroad. Majority of them are women applying as domestic helpers.

Advocates said not only are they calling for the U.S. government to provide these women safe-working conditions, they are also calling on the Philippine government to give these mothers stable and decent-paying jobs back home — so they don’t need to work abroad in the first place.

Pia Cortez, co-chair of BABAE-San Francisco said, “We think the Philippine government should work hard so the citizens don’t have to migrate to the U.S.”

Viray hopes for that day to come she gets reunited with her family. She said, for now, she will do whatever it takes, to make sure her family is taken care of.

She concluded, “A mother will do everything for her children.”

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