Freedom. A fresh start. A better life.
These are some of the hopes prisoners have for their future after release.
Unfortunately, for many recently released female inmates in Thailand, life outside prison is not what they hope for it to be. Lacking in connections and job skills, re-entering society and making ends meet is more often than not, a struggle. This makes them more susceptible to being recruited by human traffickers, and may soon find themselves back within the closed environment of a prison. Thankfully, they are not bound to this fate.
Microsoft Thailand recently teamed up with the National Council for Child and Youth Development (NYCD) to put a stop to this vicious cycle. During a two-day workshop, 37 soon-to-be-released female inmates were given basic computer science education and taught practical Information and Communications Technology (ICT) skills aimed at enhancing their employability.
Over the two days, the inmates went through various activities to develop their creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities and understanding of key software applications—skills necessary to help them succeed in life after their release. The workshop also covered the basic concepts of online marketing and ways to start up their own micro-business ventures through Microsoft productivity tools, such as how to produce their own product labels and business cards.
One of the inmates who attended the workshop already started incorporating these new skills into her plans for her future. “I’ll be using the ICT knowledge and skills learnt from the workshop to set up a small design and printing business that produces quality invitation cards,” she said. “After I leave prison next year, I don’t intend on ever coming back.”
To further reduce risks of being exploited by trafficking rings, which specifically prey on female ex-prisoners, there were sessions that highlighted the dangers of human trafficking. The female inmates were educated on how they should cope and react should they be approached to join one, helping them realise that they can make the right decisions—even under difficult circumstances.
“After spending some time behind bars, their excitement to start a new life is often mingled with anxiety as they struggled to take the right step forward,” said Somsak Mukdavanakorn, Public Sector Director, Microsoft Thailand. “However, I believe that technology can change that and ensure no one is left behind. IT workshops such as the one organised for the female inmates are the essence of the Digital Thailand strategy to create equitable society through technology. Through these activities, we want to help those at risk discover the potential within themselves and open up new career opportunities, so they can successfully rebuild their lives for a better future.”