*Please be aware that the interview listed below includes content that is not suitable for children, as it references trauma.
What is your story of strength?
I think being away from my family and my loved ones so that I could be to able to support them has made me who I am, especially my son, who is in the Philippines. Living by myself in Dubai as a single mom is really hard. Even if I don’t like it, I have to be far from him to be able to provide for him so he can have an education.
I came to Dubai by accident. One day I went with my friend to a recruitment agency in the Philippines who was applying for a job in Dubai. While I was waiting they asked me to fill out the form as well. The next day they called me to come for a training trial. I felt guilty because they called me and not my friend, and she was the one who really wanted to get a job abroad.
At the time, I was having a personal problem with my family, particularly with my sister about my son. So I think that situation pushed me to find a better job to be able to support my son. I didn’t want to go, to leave my family. But moving to Dubai allowed me to make more money to support my son. My family doesn’t have much either, so I knew I had to go. Really, I went with the goal to get my son back. When I was working in the Philippines I was making such little money, I couldn’t support my son’s needs. My sister was helping me take care of my son and so I decided to go to help my family and myself to take better care of my son.
Can you tell me about a woman who inspires you?
Oprah is my inspiration. A long time ago, I heard her story. We were similar. She inspired me because she came from nothing, and look who she has become. She is really strong and has so much courage. I really admire her. I saw that in her background, in her story, we have many similarities. I was raped. Until now, nobody knew about it. I was 11. It was someone I knew, extended family, he was older. It happened near my house. I was looking after my cousin’s daughter and then he came. It was afternoon. I wasn’t expecting him. I wasn’t expecting this. He asked the children to leave. He grabbed me and I was shocked. I was 11. He held me. He was a big man and I was quite thin and small. After he did, he told me if you tell anyone I will kill you. So I kept quiet. Until now. After this happened, while I grew up, I always wanted to talk to someone but I couldn’t find anyone. Everyone was busy, working, they had their own families.
That is why I relate to Oprah and her story. You can’t imagine how hard her life was her before, but now, she’s Oprah. I was 11. She was 9, I think. That is the thing that inspires me. Growing up with so little, she changed her situation. After that time in my life, until now I was never confident and very shy. I always thought that I wasn’t like other girls. I couldn’t do anything. And that I was destined to stay like that. Thinking about my son, though, makes me push through. I have to do it. Even though I am less confident, my strength comes from my son- he is the one who makes me go on.
Can you tell me about a time you failed?
I’ve been working here in the UAE for more than 12 years but still I don’t have any savings in my account. This feels like a failure. After all the struggles and the hard work, I have nothing to show for it. Spending 11 years away from my son and my family, I have nothing left. I send everything home. I feel like I’ve failed to achieve my dreams. This job isn’t really my passion but I do it, I do it for my family. I lacked the confidence to pursue what I wanted. My dream is, to one day, to be an engineer, a successful engineer. I love building houses and dreaming of new ones. But it is expensive in my country. Instead I did what would bring my family money. So now that I’ve reached this age, and I have no savings… sometimes I wish I had my own house with my son in the Philippines, together on the porch. Even sleeping under the same roof would be amazing, like getting back the years I am not with him, that I wanted to be with him. Sometimes it feels like a failure. I hope he will give me a chance. His heart is very far from me right now. He doesn’t want to talk to me now because my sister told my son I wasn’t sending money for him.
How can women support one another?
By talking to one another, we can share our struggles and how we survived. Sharing these moments, and how we made it through can inspire one another can help someone else move past their problems. We can help each other move from struggling to succeeding.