Since 1991 ‘Chato’ Basa has been working for the Foundation as an independent organizer of immigrant women in Europe. Living in Rome, she is herself one of the 100,000 Philippine immigrants in Italy. She believes it is the social-political-economic situation in the Philippines, due to colonialism, which is “the main reason for immigration. The desire of the Filipinos to ‘flee’ their country makes them imprudent and vulnerable and easy prey for the private recruiters who, often in exchange for exorbitant compensation, promise them work permits (which often turn out to be non existent) in foreign countries. And when in fact they succeed in emigrating and arrive in the ‘promised land’ they are often abandoned there, risking re patriation, or if they are women they may be made to become prostitutes or to serve in the entertainment industry”.
Chato is a feminist activist herself. Before she came to work with the Foundation she had already spent several years working with ISIS International’s Rome office and then with Women in Development in Europe. She has a broad network among women immigrants in Europe and many other international contacts. In 1992 for the Foundation, she helped to organize speaking tours of Indigenous women and of US women of color to meet with women of color in Europe. In 1993-94 together with the Philippine women’s council in Rome she organized a women’s shelter with the Foundation’s help. This project had to close because additional funding which had been promised by the previous government was made unavailable by the present Italian Neo Fascist government.
In 1992 Chato was one of the main organizers of the first encounter of the Philippine Women’s Network in Europe, held in Barcelona, Spain. Called ‘Babaylan’, this organization is composed of various groups, and has as its goal to create solidarity not only with Philippine women but also with other immigrant women. The women intend to struggle for their rights, to change racist and sexist laws, and to represent themselves in first person in the formulation of laws that regard immigrant women in Europe.
In 1993, Chato attended the UN Human Rights Conference in Vienna, and later that year went on a tour of peace and feminist organizations in the United States, put together by Ana Sisnett, where she met with many activists and discussed the situations of immigration in the different countries. In the fall of 1993 she was able to attend the preparatory conference for the World Conference on Population, this time with the additional funding of a German foundation. She went to the Cairo Population conference itself as part of the delegation of the Women’s Environmental and Development Organization. She also recently attended the Vienna Conference in preparation for the UN World Conference of women to be held in Beijing in 1995. Her participation in these conferences has been essential because it has brought forward a voice from the millions of immigrants in Europe, which might otherwise not have been heard in the corridors of power.