Women are pillars of strength and are capable of doing anything in the world. In the past, women might have been given less opportunities than men, but they have proven time and time again that they deserve the right to speak, to lead and to rule. However, society has still been cruel to many women who just want to live their dreams. Many of them couldn’t even get the bare minimum in living a decent life. Stripped of opportunities, they women are left with no recourse but take desperate measures to survive. That is why a great number of women are forced to enter the illegal flesh trade to make both ends meet. Based on recent studies, about 500,000 women work as prostitutes.
“Sam,” 33, used to work as a dancer in a bar. Sam shared that her parents separated when she was four years old, and his father wasn’t able to provide for her needs, including her education. This was probably the reason, Sam said, why her father set up a fixed marriage for her and for the son of his friend. At the age of 15, she already gave birth to a child. Unfortunately, her husband started to engage in vices and became abusive. She needed to work hard for her child and thus took advantage of every opportunity that came her way. One time, her sister’s friend asked if she’s okay to work as a waitress. However, when they arrived at the bar, she was told that the position wasn’t vacant anymore. She was later asked if she would want to work instead as a dancer. Sam didn’t want to at first but she realized how she badly needed the work to provide for her child.
Sam’s situation was almost the same as what Claire Abayon experienced. She’s 30 years old from Northern Samar. She grew up without her parents by her side as her mother left her when she was still a baby, and her father was living away from her. When she was in elementary, Claire’s grandparents died, and when she was in high school, she lived with her aunt. After graduating from high school, Claire was still able to enter her first year of college. However, because her aunt couldn’t afford her college tuition, she was forced to stop. This led to Claire’s frustration and she felt she had no chance to succeed in life. But a friend’s job roused her curiosity—her life improved dramatically because of it. She learned from her friend that she was working as a club waitress and she decided to give it a try. Needing a heftier income, Claire eventually became a dancer at the club. She admitted that this line of work led to fear and self-pity and in 2016, a group of missionaries from the faith-based organization Wipe Every Tear approached her and offered her a scholarship so she could go back to college. At first, she did not believe it, but when she decided to leave her work, she waited for those missionaries to come back and when that time came, Claire grabbed the opportunity and accepted the offer. Finally, Claire was able to reach her dream of finishing her studies as she was able to finish a degree in Business Management.
Mirasol Villegas, 34, also encountered the same fate. She is a single mother of two who would do anything to provide for her children. She admitted that she used to be a happy-go-lucky person but motherhood changed her perspective about life. She had to endure every judgment that people threw on her because of her job. But Mirasol chose to keep it to herself. Because it’s hard to explain everything to her children, she would just always tell them to study hard because education is what she can only provide for them. Wipe Every Tear likewise offered a scholarship grant to Mirasol, who would finish a degree in Political Science. Mirasol was beyond grateful to Wipe Every Tear when her children also received scholarship grants from the group.
Wipe Every Tear helps exploited women victimized by rampant sex trafficking. Rebecca “Mama Becks” Angeles, the program director of the organization, shared that they would always go into bars or clubs and talk to the women working there and offer complete college education for free. Rebecca became emotional when she recalled how she experienced having nothing. What even ignited her passion to help exploited women was when she had two students who were working as prostitutes just so they can pay for their tuition. She admitted how her heart was broken into pieces the moment she learned about her students’ situation that time. But the most fulfilling part in her passion is to see these woman graduate from college, and eventually help their families. Rebecca stressed that every woman has the right to pursue her dreams and fight for her rights. She toured the Iba ‘Yan Team inside the “love house” where the girls are staying and doing their everyday routine including studying, praying, and doing recreational activities such as creating artworks and gardening. Another advocacy of Wipe Every Tear is the “Tayo Collective” which lets the girls learn different alternative livelihoods. These girls are able to create jewelry products from this livelihood project.
Iba ‘Yan host Angel Locsin learned that “Sam” also became a beneficiary of Wipe Every Tear and is now in a far better situation than before. Sam told other victims of exploitation that they aren’t alone and that they still have a chance to make their lives more meaningful. To help the organization and its beneficiaries, Angel pledged to help them in their livelihood project through promoting their jewelry products through social media. The Iba ‘Yan team also gave 40 ligtas bags, 40 relief packs, and 40 women’s essentials and two sewing machines for the organization’s initiative, Tayo Collective. For the women who were supposed to graduate this year but weren’t able to march because of the pandemic, the Iba ‘Yan team organized a special graduation ceremony for them. They had the chance to wear their toga and receive their diplomas on stage. Three empowered women including Jodi Sta. Maria, Bianca Gonzales, and Bernadette Sembrano also gave inspiring and heartfelt messages for the graduates. All the graduates including Claire were able to receive messages from their relatives. She and Mama Becks also gave their own speeches in the ceremony.
Lastly, Angel imparted more good news to the graduates. One was the college scholarship offered by the local government of Quezon City for Ara, the senior high school graduate. And that ABS-CBN Trabahanap would assist graduates in finding jobs best suited for them.