By Riza Ramirez-Flores, Social Worker
One of the major components for the recovery of victim-survivors of severe exploitation and violence abroad is social and economic reintegration, which includes programs for psychosocial support and counseling, as well as life skills, livelihood training and employment in sustainable jobs.
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (Ople Center) and the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) have innovated a comprehensive assistance package under its Anti-Slavery Project for Overseas Filipino Domestic Workers called the Reintegration Assistance for Trafficked OFWs (RAFT).
Launched in 2019 and implemented throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a model intervention for severely exploited women victim-survivors.
It traces its origins from the partnerships of the Ople Center with the Center for OFW Reintegration and Empowerment (CORE) in providing social preparation, life skills, and counseling for trafficked women domestic workers as early as July 2019.
It was eventually expanded to include private sector partners in business planning and skills training Junior Chamber International (JCI) Philippines, Sector East Training Solutions, Inc. (SETSI), and United International Maritime Training and Assessment Center (UIMTAC).
Since its launch, the partners in RAFT continued to provide interventions that secured victim-survivors’ needs. Even as the pandemic ravaged the local economy since March 2020, the partnerships managed to record a total of 1,109 referrals for reintegration and after-care assistance from various partners in government, civil society, and private sector organizations.
A total of 596 individuals were trained under the project, with 581 of them trained at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. These former women OFWs reside in Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Batangas, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
San Miguel to the rescue
Some of the notable partnerships of the Ople Center and GFEMS are with the largest conglomerate in the Philippines, the San Miguel Corporation, that launched a livelihood program entitled “OFW Bayaning Kumikita: OFW Community Reselling Program” on December 14, 2020, which aims to train former women domestic workers severely exploited abroad in community reselling of San Miguel Foods brands including Magnolia chicken and Purefoods processed products.
During the launch, Ramon S. Ang, COO of the San Miguel Corporation expressed his gratitude to the partners. “I am grateful for this chance for us to help human trafficking survivors rebuild their lives. We hope this will help them to heal, reintegrate into their communities, and provide for their families.” Ang said.
From victims to entrepreneurs
From the launch until the end of the Reselling Program in May 31, 2021 the Ople Center trained 277 former women domestic workers who were severely exploited abroad, mainly trained online and have had their kits delivered to them through the authorized distributors in their respective areas.
“Malaki ang naitulong ng Ople Center dahil mula nung babalik na ako sa Pilipinas hanggang sa makarating ako nandyan ang Ople Center tinutulungan ako at pati dito sa business ko.” said Ama, a former cleaner in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and successful beneficiary from Bulacan. “Nawa po ay ipagpapatuloy nyo po ang inyong magandang layunin na makpagbigay ng pangsimulang negosyo lalo na sa aming OFW.” said MAM, a former household service worker in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and successful beneficiary from the NCR.
Negoeskwela is a TESDA-accredited skills training institute offering a wide array of livelihood training opportunities. It began its partnership with the Ople Center and GFEMS on September 26, 2020 on a comprehensive livelihood training program on food processing, particularly on the production hot buns and dumplings; with its first batch of trained beneficiaries having received starter kits on September 30, 2020 at the Negoskwela Training Center in North Ave., Quezon City.
Fourteen batches of former women domestic workers who were severely exploited abroad were trained under this partnership, during the COVID-19 pandemic from September 30, 2020 until May 31, 2021.
319 beneficiaries A total of 319 beneficiaries have been trained and have received their starter kits. “Maraming salamat po sa pagtulong hanggang huli ay nandyan para sa amin. Sana ay marami pa po kayong matulungan.” said CAL, a former household service worker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and successful beneficiary from the food processing livelihood training of Negoskwela. “Salamat dahil nakakutulong po kayo sa mga OFW. Thankful po ako dahil napili ako ako. Nadagdagan po yung kaalaman ko po pagagawa ng siomai at siopao at mas nahasa po yung aking paggawa.” said SM, a former household service worker in Lebanon and successful beneficiary from the food processing livelihood training of Negoskwela. END