by Susan V. Ople
The best protection against labor exploitation and slavery is the possession of marketable, employable skills and knowledge about one’s rights not only as a worker, but as a human being. This is the philosophy behind the expanded TULAY program of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute.
The expanded TULAY program is a two-week alternative learning course that combines written and oral English communications, computer literacy, daily affirmations, and financial literacy specifically for victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. The program aims to provide a safe haven for learning new skills and building self-confidence aided by modern technology.
The women are instantly empowered once they cross the digital divide. Once they discover the Internet and are able to make their own word documents and PowerPoint presentations, they become more aware and confident. Technology rekindles their love for learning and broadens their horizons – from being former domestic workers prone to abuse by their foreign employers, they have started to dream big, as future entrepreneurs or as hotel employees.
For now, the expanded TULAY program has 12 students, including those referred to the Ople Center by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) as well as the Embassy of Netherlands which gave the initial funding for these students. Even while the training program has yet to end, another batch of human trafficking and illegal recruitment survivors has signified desire to participate.
What we hope to achieve is for these women to find their own voice, and the strength to carry out their long-held dreams. The Villar Foundation has signified willingness to help the best graduates to find temporary jobs in an office environment, or to guide them in applying for livelihood grants. There are other partners as well both in the public and private sectors, wanting to lend a helping hand in promoting a holistic approach towards empowerment and reintegration.
To expand this alternative learning program and accept more students, the Ople Center needs donors. Our dream is to be able to provide more classes including mobile learning sessions to victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment especially those who have lost all hope of finding gainful employment or the means to earn a decent income for their family.
A new chapter in life awaits these brave survivors. From the heavy hand of exploitation, they now find new vistas of hope with the click of a mouse, and the knowledge they once lacked but have since gained through the Ople Center’s TULAY program.