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Championing migrant workers' rights

23 March 2012

Mr Wham (right) with Mr Sadasivan during the lively forum

Jolovan Wham once received a call for help from an Indian foreign worker who was dismissed and confined with some of his fellow workers. Such plight is among the predicaments faced by migrant workers in Singapore and which the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) has assisted over the years.

Mr Wham, HOME's Executive Director, shared some of his poignant encounters with migrant workers at U@live. This monthly forum organised by alumni and the Office of Alumni Relations features illustrious members of the university community who have been indefatigable in championing causes that make a difference to the world.

"For me, human rights and social justice are cardinal principles in social work. As social workers, we are concerned about social problems and what we should do about issues such as inequality, oppression and the plight of the marginalised," said Mr Wham, a social work graduate.

Explaining how he embarked on his migrant rights activism journey, Mr Wham said that he was curious about the problems migrant workers experienced in Singapore. While there were hundreds of thousands of them in the country, he knew little about the difficulties they were facing and often wondered where they turned to for help.

On his motivation for soldiering on, Mr Wham said anger is what continues to drive him and some of his colleagues and friends in civil society. "It is simply not enough to be kind and compassionate and caring. It is often only by maintaining and embracing this rage, this anger and our vision of a better world that we can start to chip away at oppressive hierarchies that serve to exclude, exploit and dehumanise individuals in communities," he said with passion.

He later answered questions which included the gap between the legislation and the enforcement of foreign workers' rights, what can be done to restore the foreign workers' dignity and how Singapore compares with other countries in terms of human rights.

The forum, which was webcast live, was moderated by NUS alumnus Mr Viswa Sadasivan, who also chairs the U@live organising committee.

To read more about the U@live session, click here.