Today we turn the spotlight on Nida Reyes Lontoc, one of Uplifters’ Team Leaders. She is an ambassador for PathFinders Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation that assists pregnant migrant workers, mothers and their babies born in Hong Kong. Here she talks about what motivates her to support fellow migrant workers in their empowerment journey.
“When I started the course, I was just curious about it and I thought it was a good way to keep myself busy. But when I met Uplifters’ team leader Lizz Natividad and shared how she manages her salary and her expenses during the pandemic, I got interested because I realized I was earning well. However, I’m still borrowing money from my friend’s. The first thing I did when I went home was to open the lessons again. I bought a notebook and pen to take down notes. I wanted to change my way of living. I realized no one could help me, but I need to be firm with my decisions for my future and my children. I value every centavo I earn and prioritize my needs over wants.
While I was doing the Make it Happen course, I joined the training class of Pathfinders and became one of its ambassadors. I am very happy during our outreach programmes as we meet and talk to different kinds of people. Through their experience, we learn about the struggles they face and how they cope. It has developed my sensitivity to their experiences and listen with respect and without judgement.
As Pathfinders ambassadors, our vision is for all migrant domestic workers to be informed and empowered. Many have been working here in Hongkong for many years now but still do not understand their rights. Our mission is to equip them with adequate knowledge on maternity protection and crucial information on love scams, common misconceptions and pregnancy discrimination. We promote awareness and empowerment to help them understand their rights and entitlements as part of the workforce in Hong Kong, particularly on maternity protection. In particular, I would like to highlight the following:
- Migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong have the right to get pregnant. They must have their medical certificate before they inform their employer. The employer cannot terminate a domestic worker according to the law in Hong Kong. In case they encounter a disagreement with their employer, they can seek help from Pathfinders. The hotline number for migrant workers is +852 5190 4886. [NB. It’s not the case everywhere, for example in Singapore, pregnant domestic workers must by law be terminated and sent back to their home countries].
- A migrant domestic worker who gets pregnant and legally employed is considered an “eligible person” and has access to subsidized medical services at public hospitals and is also entitled to maternity leave. The Hong Kong government extended the maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks for all working women, including migrant domestic workers. They can file a complaint at the Labor Department and Equal Commission Opportunities due to unlawful termination.
The courses of Uplifters helped me in my role as a Pathfinders ambassador. I became more motivated to share my knowledge with those who do not have a clear vision of their goals. I look forward to becoming one of Uplifters’ team leaders as it is my passion to help in any way that I can. To my fellow migrant workers, we must have the determination to improve ourselves. Every problem has a solution; we just need to discover it. “