After darkness comes the light

Yolly is part of Future Voices programme in partnership with The Voice of Domestic Workers. Future Voices is a unique leadership programme which works with migrant domestic workers to become spokespeople and speak out against the issues that their community face.

Content warning: contains mentions of abuse, sexual harassment and suicide 

I am a woman who doesn’t give up easily because I believe that as long as I am breathing there is hope. 

I am the youngest of seven siblings. In the Philippines, we lived a simple life in a small region called Laguna. I have three children — I have two sons and one daughter. 

I am a battered wife, and experienced physical abuse and violence from my husband. He almost killed me. I tried to put up with this abuse for the sake of my children.

Our life was hard. I decided to work abroad both so I could escape my husband’s violence, and so I could provide my children with the decent living they deserved. As their mother, I had to protect them at all costs even if it meant leaving them behind.

It was 2009 when I first left my family to work in the United Arab Emirates. I experienced sexual harassment so I called the agency to send me back home. I didn’t finish my contract because the husband of my employer attempted to rape me. I applied again, this time bound for Qatar, where my job was to look after a sick child. 

In December 2017, my Qatari employer brought me here to London with another promise that they would increase my salary and let me go home to visit my children. I looked after my employer’s two children nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week on duty with no rest, no day off, and no salary. Eventually, I became very sick, but I still had to work. My employer wouldn’t even bother to take me to see a doctor or even get me medicine. The thought of dying in this uncaring and abusive family forced me to escape, and I eventually ran away from my employer.

I thought that maybe outside I could find refuge, and eventually I found The Voice of Domestic Workers (VODW), a support network and campaigning organisation run by and for migrant domestic workers, who had a place for people like me to stay. Having fled my employer, I felt many emotions, such as sadness, loneliness, and fear, along with the hope that someday I could see the light.

Through VODW, I met my fellow domestic workers. I felt safe because they treated me like their family and I found out that my suffering is also their suffering. When we shared each other’s stories, I realised I was not alone and that we needed to stand up together to become stronger. 

They helped me to move on and slowly recover from the trauma I suffered from my abusive employer. VODW gave me a new life and new hope. They provided education courses including English for Speakers of Other Languages, financial literacy, body and mind wellbeing and computer classes. Although we are all adults and not young anymore, we enjoy every moment of learning, and there is no age limit to continue educating ourselves. 

I worked hard not just as a learner but as a member. We run our charity on a day-to-day basis, and I became the leader of the VODW Education Working Group. This is a great challenge and a lot of responsibility. Being an education leader, I am responsible for encouraging all my fellow domestic workers to join the classes to enhance their confidence, knowledge, and skills. 

I enjoy this opportunity to be able to serve my fellow domestic workers and contribute to the work and services of VODW. I am always happy to do my part and be included in shaping the kind of society we live in today.

I always look forward to learning new skills and taking every opportunity that the Voice of Domestic Workers gives me. I participated as a co-researcher in a project with Dr Ella Parry-Davies about ‘’Reintegration’’. This research explored the experiences of migrant domestic workers who were forced to return to the Philippines for different reasons. Some of these workers were arrested and deported, suffered severe abuse, or were sick upon their return. I am proud to say that recently, this research was nominated for an award at King’s College.

Finally, when Future Voices 2 opened up for application, so I applied and was selected. This is my time now to shine, I became a leader in my Voice of Domestic Workers community and I look forward to becoming a confident spokesperson and public speaker.

Knowing other women suffered the same as me, I couldn’t just keep quiet. I wanted to be able to speak out and not suffer in silence. The impact of this violence on me has led to a long and severe impact on my physical, emotional, and mental health and suicide attempts but being a mother has saved me from holding on. Now I believe that I am a strong woman. I always thought and feared that escaping from my abusive husband to an exploitative employer would harm me more but those decisions changed my life for the better. 

It has made me braver to face any challenges that come my way and enabled me to provide a better life and future for my children. The people who left scars on my mind and my heart became my inspiration to become stronger. Now, I see the light because I have freedom and respect for myself that I had lost before. Life is good, just keep going.

About the Author 

Yolanda (Yolly) was born in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, Philippines and is an active member of The Voice of Domestic Workers, where she leads the Education Working Group. She is also a member of Future Voices, a unique leadership training programme run by The Voice of Domestic Workers and Sounddelivery Media to develop a network of confident migrant domestic workers as visible public spokespeople. In her spare time Yolly likes to use her laptop to finish the attendance report for all the classes every month of VODW. She also likes to create graphics and videos using the different templates in Canva, and talking on video calls with her loved ones in the Philippines.

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