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Interview with Diwatai* who has worked for 20 years in electronics manufacturing in a special economic zone outside Manilla. The interview was made in January 2021 as a part of the Swedwatch report Hazardous chemicals in ICT manufacturing and the impacts on female workers in the Philippines.

What is your background?

The land where my family lived was privatized, investors bought our farmland to build factories, now they do not have money for everyday expenses.

Before we had farmland. In my province there are many factories, the farming land is being turned into industrial areas, land is exchanged for land. They told us that working in the factories would be better than working in the fields but working in the factories is much more difficult.

Now we feel like detainees, like we are in prison, there are many CCTV [surveillance] cameras inside, there are guards, like in a prison.

What is it like?

I try very hard to manage the income … to reduce the expenses. I have one child. He is five.

My sister is a widow, she is taking care of my son. It is very difficult. During my rest days, I don’t go out. I just spend the whole day with my son.

I would not encourage my son to work in an electronics company. Maybe he will become a teacher. It is very difficult to become rich here

How is the working environment?

When I started working, we were given a safety orientation and a list of the chemicals. But no one told us about the risks. We were told how to perform the task, but the chemicals and their effect on the body, that was not included in the orientation.

One contractual worker died. She was 26 and she died of thyroid cancer. Both the company doctor and the doctors outside the company said that it was a possible that she contracted the disease because she was exposed to soldering fumes.

We have to endure in silence, we have to endure the pain every day because we need the job.

We are not the only ones exposed to the smoke. It is smelled by others as well, even some who are very far from the process. The smoke only circulates inside, it does not go out. Everyone needs to know about the risk, but no one knows, because no one tells us about the risks. Even if we feel it, we are not told about it.

What about the products?

In some ways I feel happy that our products are used all over the world and that they last for many years. It is at the expense of our health but there is nothing I can do about that. I need the job and cannot complain. I have no choice; I need the job so the product gets made at the expense of our health. We just suffer in silence because we need the job. If I complained I would be out of a job. that is the dilemma.

What about speaking out?

If we want to know about the chemicals the company asks us if we want the job or not? They say that we applied for the job and should not be complaining?
But when we applied for the job we did not know, and now we cannot get out, because we need the job. I have no choice, I have no other income. Even if it is dangerous for me, I have to do it.

* Assumed name to protect her identity.

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