Forty young women in a classroom, listening to a speaker in front. At a glance, one would think this is just another group of regular university students attending their lectures. But take a closer look and you will see that they were more attentive than most students, hanging on to the speaker’s every word and nodding enthusiastically in agreement.
They too, wish to be regular school-goers. Unfortunately for these young women—community leaders from the three provinces where the South Thailand insurgency has persisted for decades—survival is their topmost priority. The long-term violence in the region, consisting Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, has created an environment where young women are vulnerable to human trafficking, prostitution, and physical and sexual abuse.
While education and skills development can help provide employment opportunities away from unrest and give them a fresh start in life, scarce local resources limit their exposure to any form of training. That is why local nonprofit Luukrieang Foundation teamed up with the National Council for Child and Youth Development (NYCD) in Thailand, Microsoft Thailand and World Vision to organize a two-day workshop aimed at empowering community leaders with computer science skills.
The first day focused largely on personal development, with a strong emphasis on developing computational, critical thinking and problem solving skills through information communications technology (ICT)—essential for employment. The participants also got their first taste of coding, which they found fascinating and unexpectedly easy!
At the second half of the workshop, trainers introduced the key role of ICT in driving anti-human trafficking awareness across the region. Participants sat through an informative video created by IOM X, which helped build a deeper understanding on how they can protect themselves and their communities. They then got a hand at producing anti-trafficking brochures and posters via Microsoft Word, as well as editing photos and creating presentations via Microsoft PowerPoint.
“The skills I gained not only open up more employment opportunities, they also give me valuable know-how to support anti-trafficking efforts,” said Ulfat Wani, a participant at the workshop. “I will be sure to pass these on to my friends, and I hope we can use them to make our community a better place to live in.”
Keeping in mind these provinces get limited educational support from external stakeholders, NYCD, World Vision and Microsoft also designed the workshop in a way that enabled the 40 young leaders to cascade the knowledge to others in their community. The learning curriculum has already been uploaded online for convenient sharing.
“Human trafficking is a highly alarming threat that is close at hand, especially in these areas where poverty and violence are widespread,” said Somsak Mukdavannakorn, Public Sector Director, Microsoft (Thailand) Limited. “We want to support all efforts against human trafficking in Thailand by empowering as many youth as we can with technology. YouthSpark activities like this workshop give them access to training and help develop their creativity, analytical and problem solving skills, which we hope will open up new career opportunities that enable them chart their own future.”