4 young Romanian professionals teamed up in order to tackle the issues of discrimination and abuse the Filipino domestic workers face in Romania and give them a voice. Produse Domestice (Domestic Products) is a play about domestic work and migration which premiered in Bucharest on October 17th, with a second representation being set for October 25th at WASP-Working Art Space and Production. The leading actress is a Filipino engineer who came to Romania to work as a housekeeper. The play is based on the true story of Ynia and is produced by young Romanian theatre director Ioana Paun, writer Xandra Popescu, journalist Laura Stefanut and artist/composer Catalin Rulea.
Romania is known more as a country of emigration with 2,769, 053 people mainly settling in countries in Europe, according to data visualization project, peoplemov. Back home, some of the immigrants in search for a better life in Romania, are going through similar abuses and discriminations as Romanian themselves face in Europe. Immigration in Romania is a new phenomenon, therefore the institutions who are supposed to protect the migrants who work here don't function properly. At the moment, there are over 750 official migrant domestic workers in Romania, mostly Filipino women.
Laura Stefanut an independent Romanian journalist, is the first one who wrote about the abuses on Filipino domestic workers in Romania. Recently, she presented the story of Ynia, a 30 years old Filipino engineer who arrived in Romania in 2011 to work as a housekeeper. "Romania seemed beautiful. I arrived to Focșani and I saw snow for the first time. It was the most beautiful day. I called my mother and told her: mother, it's snowing and it's amazing! It's as if circles of cotton were falling down from the sky”, Ynia begins her story. She further describes the harsh and humiliating treatment she received from her Romanian employers, how she got exploited by the agency and the impossibility to get any help. With no one to go to and no institution to help her (there is no diplomatic representation of Philippines in Romania anymore), Ynia ends her story in fear: "I am afraid. Since I got in Romania, I am constantly afraid". But Ynia, didn't give up so easily and she eventually found hearted people who were willing to help her. One of those was no other than the secretary of the agency who exploited her and who later resigned and founded her own agency. Oana taught Ynia about her rights. At the same time, Ynia got in contact with the Filipino community in Romania through Facebook and she was not alone in her struggle anymore.
The choice of distributing Ynia as a leading actress in Domestic Products was a natural thing to do as she was directly involved in this phenomenon and at the same time she is a powerful inspirational woman who bravely faced her difficulties and didn't give up. She is a charismatic person and has amazing singing abilities too. About her performance, Ynia says: "today I am going to perform in the theatre play about the Filipino women working as nannies in Romania. Oh, how hard was to get into the character's shoes, my friend Joy. I felt her fear. I constantly feel fear since I got in Romania."
Ioana Paun, familiar with immigration stories as some of her relatives emigrated to Italy in the 90's, is the theatre director of Domestic Products. Recently, she stated in an interview that the play aims to "raise awareness on the situation of the immigrants working for the rich people in Romania, the country where even the Prime Minister employed a Filipino housekeeper. We want to present the reactions of the Romanian state when the housekeepers are showing up at the police station, after the state cashed in the taxes and the social contributions for these domestic workers." In her view, the biggest problem is the state, which receives taxes from these workers and at the same time fails to protect them. And then comes in the International Organization of Migration (IOM) who deports them "voluntarily" on European and Romanian state money.
The solution is promised to be presented during the play. At the same time, the play is supposed to present the Romanian public the situation of the Filipino domestic workers in a realistic as opposed to a marketable way. The organizers plan to find professional legal and counseling help for this community in Romania and hope that the play will inspire more Romanian women to get a stronger voice, whether in arts, journalism or politics.
The translations in English in the citations are done by myself.
Ynia Photo Credits by George Popescu
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