A national campaign on Safe Labour Migration was launched in January 2019 by the Ministry of Foreign Employment and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Sri Lanka. The objective of the campaign was to provide core safe labour migration messages to the wider public. The key messages of the ‘Denagana Rata Yanne’ media campaign included information on following proper processes for migration, preparing and planning with the whole family for migration, and calling the 1989 hotline for reliable information.
Foreign employment is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings for Sri Lanka, while contributing to 9% of the country’s GDP. A large number of migrant workers from Sri Lanka are low-skilled and primarily migrate to the Gulf states, where most women go abroad as domestic workers and men go into the construction sector.
Unfortunately, labour migration, if not done through regular and safe channels, also contributes to many economic and social issues where the migrant worker and their families face a multitude of hardships. The primary reason for this was identified as the lack of awareness and knowledge of how to approach foreign employment, including the dos and the don’ts, planning for migration and the rights of migrant workers. Migration is a basic human right and no state can issue a regulation stopping it. Therefore, the ideal approach is to increase awareness about the correct procedures for safe labour migration among the general public, which was the primary objective of the campaign.
Targeted at the general public, and specifically the migrant workers, influencers such as job agents, immediate family and friends, community elders and local authorities, the media campaign discussed areas pertaining to different stages of the migration cycle. It addressed issues related to acquiring proper information and skills at pre-departure, safety and precautions to be taken while in service and how to integrate back into society on return.
The campaign was adapted into national TV and Radio with a creative and attention grabbing jingle. It also covered Print, Cinemas, and Billboards as well as the Digital sphere. A town storming activation was conducted in 200 locations, covering 19 districts, which included a customized bus playing the jingle on a large LCD screen and local representatives of the Ministry and the SLBFE providing direct information and services to those who stepped in. An average of 100 people in each location were directly educated about safe labour migration, while hundreds more benefitted from the activation. This activation received 95% positive comments. In addition, informative stickers were placed in 1,000 three-wheelers, thereby expanding the reach of the message extensively.
To complement these efforts, two media sensitization programmes were conducted for national level journalists with the participation of several civil societies working on the issue at national and district level to discuss crucial issues pertaining to labour migration, resulting in numerous publications on the local media on this topic.
The campaign, which was carried out over a year resulted in an over 80% message recall rate. The number of calls received by the call center for 1989 increased by 24, 475 by the end of August 2019, making it one of the successful national level media campaigns.