Empowering Filipina Moms in Bahrain

By Princess Aileen Quimpo

Named after her mother’s numerous intercessions to the Virgin Mary, Fatema Cabauatan Yusuf was born in Cabagan, Isabela, Philippines.

Gifted with a bright mind, while conquering an uphill battle, Fatema received her degree in Education, cum laude in University of Santo Tomas, Philippines. She also took Masteral units in Political Science from UST, however she decided to shift to Masters in Public Administration (MPA) degree, when she got a scholarship from University of the Philippines.

Happily married to a Bahraini, where she met in the Philippines, Fatema and her husband Abbas were blessed with three brilliant children, Ahlam, Ali and Ehlam. Never heard of Bahrain, and grew up with a conservative parents, Fatema’s parents were apprehensive and skeptical about her decision in marrying a non-Filipino national, primarily because she already had a great job, as the youngest training specialist in the Civil Service Commission, and received a scholarship to Japan.

Living her first year in Bahrain has been a culture shock—from the way of living, the food they are accustomed,  to the language they are using. It was also been a year of second guessing herself all the time, and for the 15 years she devoured herself on reading all the books she could read, about the roles of women in Islam, and while there were some confusions, she would ask her husband for further explanations. Despite of the cultural differences, Fatema believed that Filipinos are resilient, and able to find a way to cope up with things and situation, just like its native bamboo plant.

An informed, healthy, and empowered person is not just an asset to her family, but to society as well.

Becoming a mother, and bringing up your children is a real challenge to work, nonetheless, Fatema made a decision early on to work only for a part-time to attend to the needs of her children, not to compromise those things by trusting them to a housemaid. However, a few of her previous jobs in Bahrain were including an educator for more than 20 years, a former lecturer in Business Studies at Bahrain Training Institute, Sales and Marketing Trainer at Bahrain Duty Free, and a Business Studies Tutor at Pitman Training Center. Fortunately, there were schools and companies that willingly accommodated her preferred hours. To Fatema, she may not have a grandiose career to speak of, but she was able to allot her time and attention needed by her children. For her a parent must know when to push and when to pull back, giving their children the freedom to explore to be the best that they can be.

With her dedication and commitment to provide a better living experience for Filipino Moms in Bahrain, which led her to finding the group ‘PhilBahMoms’. PhilBahMoms is a social support group of Filipinos married to Bahrainis, or other nationalities. The group’s goal is to foster friendships, camaraderie, and cooperation for Filipinas by advocating programs and activities to promote, motivate and empower one another. The group is operating for seven months, and currently close to 200 members. Contrary to other OFW groups, PhilBahMoms is a unique minority group that is both Filipino and Bahraini. A large part of the Filipinos in Bahrain have become naturalised citizens, withal, the strong roots and identity of a traditional Filipino remains, and for most of the mothers have instilled a strong and lasting impact on the fabric of Bahrain Society. PhilBahMoms has become the guardians of Bahrainis that are products of mixed marriages, who wants their children to know their history. Fatema believes that “an informed, healthy, and empowered person is not just an asset to her family, but to society as well”.

PhilBahMom’s approach to their projects are unique, such as the Breast Cancer Awareness Programs. The group visited the homes of their members to conduct a lecture about breast cancer, provided they have an Oncologist and a Breast Cancer Nurse in the group. The program consists of five workshops.

Another program tog PhilBahMoms is the Colour Art Therapy, which they aroused an online competition, and gave out an adult colouring books as prizes. To the group, the social media is a huge source of information and updates on Bahraini Women’s Rights.

For the month of March, the group celebrated International Women’s Day and Arab Mother’s Day by organising a contest for Mrs. Personality, a fun and engaging day for mothers.

For future activities of PhilBahMoms includes, dance classes in groups to encourage members to exercise; self-development programs such as meditation classes, book-sharing scheme, cultural tours, alternative medicine, health and wellness seminars.

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