Nitnit Mongaya

Consensus of One

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Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm was chosen as 1 of the 100 Most Influential Filipina 2014. by FWN /Filipina Women's Network.

Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm was chosen as 1 of the 100 Most Influential Filipina 2014. by FWN /Filipina Women’s Network.

When Filipinas in Diaspora gather in the Philippine’s Wall Street equivalent of Makati in MetroManila to honour the 100 most influential women leaders in the Philippine diaspora, anno 2014, Danish-Filipina FILOMENITA HOEGSHOLM, nee MONGAYA (of Surigao City in Mindanao) will be amongst these select few from the more than 10 million Filipinos abroad.

It is no secret that ca. 45 million Filipinas -slightly more than half of the 90 million population of this 7000 island archipelago, the first democratic republic in all of Asia- throw their weight around when it comes to leadership and gender empowerment. Currently, Filipino women rank nr.5 on the global list when it comes to closing the gender gap according to the annual survey of the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland), a fact that rankles in the Nordic countries which used to fill out the top 5 posts. This year, only the 4 top posts go to the Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Philippines has grabbed the 5th place ousting Denmark which is now only the world’s 8th placer. The Philippines has continuously been the only Asian country in the top ten

Ms. Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm was a freelancing journalist covering the migration beat when the Editor of the magazine she wrote for at that time, SAMSPIL, urged her to contribute to a Nordic publication on migrant women. She heeded the challenge and wrote about the situation of Filipinas in Denmark. Pretty soon, she was involved actively in respresenting the views of her kababayans at the biggest gathering of Nordic women, the Nordic Forum held for the first time in Oslo in 1988, and in Turku, Finland in 1994. By 1992, she was one of those who turned up in Barcelona for the first meeting of Filipinas in Europe. That September the Philippine women’s network, BABAYLAN was founded by the more than 60 Filipina delegates from all over Europe. Filomenita presented a paper on Danish Filipinas. Active as a migrant woman organizer, she has led and coordinated participation of Danish migrant women, aside from Filipinas, at such milestones as the UN conferences in Cairo(’94, population),Copenhagen(social summit)& Beijing (women) in ’95.

”Nitnit” (to Filipino friends) has since been a capacity to reckon with in cross-cultural initiatives where she untiringly showcases Philippine culture be it in music, dance, fashion,the arts, and women dialogues (Dialogues in Dignity series). She has been elected to top posts at minority women and other organizations, eg. As Chairperson of BWEN (Black Women and Europe Network, 1996) after two terms as Vice-President (1992-1996) of this first ever inter-ethnic migrant women organization in the EU(European Union). She later began her initiative of mainstreaming migrant women empowerment by seeking entry to feminist organizations in Europe. First, she was elected to the Danish international women and development network KULU. And thru this, she later got elected to the 5-women Executive Board of WIDE, the most influential women empowerment in Europe. She stayed until WIDE’s devolution in 2011 and became part of the Task Force that rebirthed the new WIDE Plus in 2012.

Filomenita’s efforts to empower minority women were recognized early on when she garnered the Grassroots Foundation Prize in 1994 in Denmark for the contribution to women’s integration of SOLDUE Magazine which she was Editor in chief for from 1992 to 1997. From the 1990s onwards, Filomenita produced radio shows, video documentaries on various topics mainly focused on the situation of minorities such as her fellow Filipinos aside from covering the area with reportages for local and international media. She also edited an English language magazine on Kurdish human rights. She produced a video documentary on the plight of over a hundred stateless Palestinians who occupied a Danish church in the inner city of Noerrebro which made the headlines because of its length -more than 300 days- and of the support the asylumseekers got from the local people. The result: a permit to stay for all granted by the Folketing (Danish Parliament). Today, the opposite happens for asylum seekers who choose this way: they are removed by force by the police. Everywhere in Europe, asylum seekers are turned away.

In May 1997, she founded BABAYLAN Denmark together with some stalwart Pinays in the Copenhagen area. In 2000, just as the second people power was about to install another woman President (Gloria Macapagal) she started ABAKADA, the migration, gender and development magazine that is appreciated across borders and even continents. Since the start, Babaylan DK and Abakada have been at the forefront of empowering Filipinas not only in Denmark but globally.

FMH during the signing of MOU between CFO and Babaylan Denmark at the CFO Manila with  from left to right: Michael Appatad, FMH, Secretary Imelda Nicolas and Ivy Miraveles.

FMH during the signing of MOU between CFO and Babaylan Denmark at the CFO Manila with from left to right: Michael Appatad, FMH, Secretary Imelda Nicolas and Ivy Miraveles.

The coming of Filipina au pairs in numbers to the Nordic countries has challenged the organization which has responded by offering a plethora of activities:information, capacity building, counselling, socials and sports and more inspite of Zero funding from the authorities who benefit from this state of things. In March 2013, Babaylan’s Founding Chair signed a MOA with CFO’s Exec.Director, Sec. Mely Nicolas in Manila to ensure that au pairs’ concerns are monitored and attended to.

As mentioned previously, her scope of concerns involves the world’s refugees, some of whom she mentored as Editor-in-chief of NEW TIMES,the publication in the Danish Red Cross that served as platform for refugees to mirror their situation and voice their grievances globally. Today among her Red Cross mentees is now Chargès des Affaires/Head of Mission for an Arab state that has been thru a partial Arab spring. She has also actively showcased,thru monitoring the elections in Salalah (2003) and in Muscat(2006), the progress of the women of the Sultanate of Oman, who were the first women to exercise suffrage in the Arabian Gulf. She has written- and continues to do so – on many Middle Eastern women personalities that have had their footprints in history.

Her knowledge on global migration and her networking skills galvanized her impact so she has been invited to speak at some international meetings like the Global Congress against Violence (Dublin, 1997), CAPWIP’s Women and Politics(Manila, 1998) and the Philippine Centennial’s Women and Nationbuilding (Manila, 1998). In the new Millennium, she has been one of the founding leaders of such women networks as EMWC (Ethnic Minority Women Council) in Denmark, ENoMW(European Network of Minority Women) in the EU and continues to be a capacity consulted during roundtables, workshops, eg. CEDAW (UN Conv.ention on Women’s Rights, Geneva 2008, PACE(Council of Europe, Paris 2009). She collated and edited for PSSC(Phil.Social Science Council) the 412-pp compendium ”In de Olde Worlde: Views of Filipino Migrants in Europe” with support from UNESCO which allows its download off
It has been launched in Manila, Amsterdam, London, Reykjavik, Wash.DC.

In 2012, Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm received the ROSA (Rotary Outstanding Surigaonon Awardee) for Migrant Women Advocacy, given for the first time in the history of the organization, in her native Surigao City where she graduated Valedictorian from Surigao City High School, 1962. When she attended the 100th year of the SCNHSS in 2003, she won and was crowned Centennial Queen and has of course been an Outstanding Alumna.

During Oct.5 to 8, the San Francisco-based FWN, Filipina Women’s Network, is recognizing her leadership capabilities as one of the 100 Global Pinays for Influential Leadership during its 11th Leadership Summit to be held for the first time in the Philippines, at the Makati Shangrila, the Gala night to be held on October 7th. FWN is recognizing her efforts as a BUILDER, owing to her efforts to consolidate and rebuild and repair women organizations and networks.


*** This was first published in Babaylan Website


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A Modern Day Babaylan- According to Starweek

MANILA, Philippines – “If there are issues that concern Filipinas in any part of the world like labor, violence, we are on that,” the 66-year-old Hoegsholm tells STARweek.

In 1997, Hoegsholm, along with other Filipinas, founded Babaylan-Denmark, a non-profit organization that has consistently worked on political, cultural-educational, social causes, including labor rights, to improve the
situation of Filipinas in Danish society. Later, they co-founded the Au Pair Network.

Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm

“In our organization, we have had three cases of sexual harassment and one attempted rape. Some years back, there was a sensational one in Sweden, prompting the ambassador at that time to lobby for a ban on au pair
deployment throughout Scandinavia and parts of Europe,” she says.

There were moves in the Department of Foreign Affairs to make it illegal to go to Europe as an au pair because of the reported abuses, including those by labor recruitment agencies.

“The ones who suffer the most from this ban are the thousands of young Filipinos who travel to Europe and, when some problem arises, realize that they are on their own,” adds Hoegsholm.

“This ban, however, was not honored in Europe. The Danish state, for example, continued to release visas or permits-to-stay to Filipino au pairs, even as it refuses to go into bilateral agreements with the Philippine
government,” says Hoegshom.

“But our own immigration officials, or at least some operating from the Philippines, knowing that a ban was on, demanded money from each departing au pair for many years at the minimum of P40,000, which they knew
the host family could pay if they really were in need of the au pair,” she says.

To help resolve matters, Babaylan-Denmark successfully pushed for the lifting of the ban in 2008 that would force the government to extend some form of protection or aid to distressed au pairs.

“This rapacious practice was finally stopped when the au pair scheme was formally transferred to the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO) portfolio since March 2012,” Hoegsholm says.

The CFO describes an au pair as a young Filipino citizen aged 18 to 30 years old, unmarried and without any children, and placed under a cultural exchange arrangement with a European/American host family for a maximum
of two years.

“On a par” or “equal to” in French, the au pair scheme means living on an equal basis in a mutual, caring relationship with the host family and the children, according to the CFO.

An au pair learns a new language and culture by living with a family in the host country in exchange for light household chores.

Au pairs do not receive a salary but they get allowances which range from P32,000 to P33,000 a month plus free board and lodging, Hoegsholm says.

Since March 1 last year, the CFO has been in charge of registering au pairs and conducting pre-departure seminars.

Filipinos bound for Europe and the US as au pairs are now required to register with the CFO.

“The CFO Task Force has to clean up…they do not allow any recruitment agencies to be involved and Filipinos can now declare themselves as au pairs when they leave for other countries, but they have a maximum contract of
two years,” she says.

There are around 6,000 au pairs in Denmark alone, according to Hogsholm.

Babaylan also pushed for the development of comprehensive insurance for au pairs in Denmark.

“As long as they are legal the host Danish family should have insurance to cover the au pair,” she adds.

“The Danish government also provides free legal assistance to au pairs. The system is there to support you and encourage women to file case if they have a strong case,” she says.

The Au Pair Network has also introduced modules on sexual and reproductive rights as well as financial literacy to Filipina au pairs.

“We make them aware of their fundamental labor and reproductive rights. We tell them that people here are different, they are freer sexually. Some of them get pregnant and when the host family finds out about this they
will be sent home,” she says.

“We teach them how to invest their money, we tell them not to send all their money to their fa milies, instead invest in a sari-sari store and other micro-enterprise,” she adds.
Hoegsholm was born in Surigao del Norte and is married to Anders Hoegsholm, a civil engineer, with whom she has three children. She works as a freelance journalist and is the editor of ABAKADA, a quarterly magazine on
women, migration and development.

She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and Journalism from the University of the Philippines-Diliman and a master’s degree in TV-Film-Radio from Syracuse University in New York.

“I have used that part of me to follow my advocacies. I used to write about mail order brides,” she says.

She has been appointed to several Danish governmental as well as civic committees, including the Women’s Commissorium under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior from 1994 to 1997.

Accomplishing all this over almost two decades, Babaylan-Denmark has been operating without an official workplace.

“The usual lowdown is the lack of funds. But we Filipinos are so resourceful, we don’t access the national funds that other nations are so adept at,” Hoegsholm says.

“We are 15 years but we don’t have an office, because you need money to rent an office. We are virtual. Our events are well attended because we post it on our website and Facebook, and use email,” she states.

“The au pair’s hub that we organized conducts parties to raise funds,” she adds.

“We provide seminars, trainings. We organize hotlines which are available on our website They can call us if they need assistance.”

Hoegsholm also continues to work for projects that empower not only the Filipino women but other ethnic groups in Europe as well.

“When you are exposed to different cultures then you realize this is what they think of me because I am just a Filipina… so we also tackle gender and ethnic equality,” says Hoegsholm.

“The centerpiece is really how you navigate as an individual, as a citizen in your community and in the global community to maximize your effect,” Hoegsholm says.

“You educate them, encourage them to become active, involved in the community, politics and entrepreneurship…because even if you are empowered, if you do not share it with others it doesn’t make sense. You have to
work for everybody. You have to work for those who are less than you,” she says.

Babaylan is a Visayan word which, in pre-colonial Philippines, designated as “empowered, wise and just women who were natural leaders in the community.”

“We believe that every Filipina is a babaylan,” Hoegsholm says.


Filomenita Mongaya Hoegsholm receives the Rotary Outstanding Surigaonon. It was the first time that the award was given for migrant women advocay.

This an article that was published in Philippine Start original article can be viewed on this link

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My Radio Program “USAPANG PINAY”

Usapang Pinay Poster

You can listen to my radio program at enttiled “Usapang Pinay” or can be translated as “Filipina Talks”. This program which is by the Channel Philippines Network via, is all about the global Filpina aka “Pinay”. I interview Pinays talking about their experiences as Pinay living abroad,their struggles and triumps.