Ellene Sana was a civil engineer who never got to practice it. Currently executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy --a Manila-based migrants' rights advocacy group whose work focuses on policy advocacy for the rights and welfare of the migrant Filipinos and members of their families. This program is complemented with our program to assist distressed migrant workers which we are able to do mainly by referring the case to concerned government agencies in Manila and through the Philippine embassies, consulates and labor offices. We also tap on CMA's wide network of migrant Filipino communities, trade unions, faith-based groups and like-minded NGOs, around the globe.
Since 2006, our programme to assist migrants in distress has been boosted with the activation of the SOS SMS system -- a text-based helpline that runs 24/7. A project conceptualised, developed and supported to date by a network of Filipino migrants in Saudi Arabia. Technical support is also extended by a group of Filipino IT experts in Manila and Australia. A partner NGO in the Philippines hosts the system. Since its activation, the cases of distressed migrants lodged in CAM have increased by more than 500%. Most of the cases came from Saudi Arabia.
In the Philippines, CMA is a member of the Philippine Migrants Rights Network (PMRW) and the network opposed to violence against women migrants. In the region, CMA is part of the Migrant Forum in Asia, and currently its chair in the executive committee.
Mobile technology is quite important in the work of CMA - both in terms of providing an easier and simpler way for migrants, wherever they may be, to access us and report their distressed situation; and conversely for us in touching base directly with concerned individuals in government agencies both in Manila and overseas. of course, it is a lot cheaper especially if overseas.
While the mobile technology facilitates the access and reporting of cases to us, 24 hours, 7 days a week, at the end of the day, the key to its success is CMA's capability to deliver prompt and concrete help and intervention, with much help from the team of committed migrant Filipinos onsite and the receptiveness of government personnel to respond to the situation.
Prior to CMA, I was working as case officer and advocacy officer of another migrant group that works with families and returned migrants. I am also involved in solidarity movements to support struggles of other peoples for freedom and democracy such as in East Timor before and until now, on Burma.