According to a WHO and World Bank World Report on Disability (2011), Persons with disabilities (PWDs) make up 15% of the world population. Available statistics show that they are generally less likely to be employed than people without disabilities. A similar reality is experienced by out of school youth, young solo parents, and indigenous young people. As a result, in the Philippines, the majority of PWDs and other excluded youth communities are unemployed at working age and live below the poverty line due to economic inactivity. They are at greater risk of insufficient social protection and see their right to decent work denied. There are many barriers that these marginalized youth groups face when striving to find skilled and decent work. In the Philippines the main ones are: Stigma and discrimination is experienced on a daily basis against persons with disabilities. They are often not included effectively in mainstream education. Moreover, a climate of outdated labour practices exist: most companies require a four-year college degree to obtain competitive employment. Lastly, PWDs talents and other excluded youth communities do not have the skills to qualify for a job because only few accessible programs are designed for them to get from K-12 level to tertiary education or vocational trainings. And if those programs exist, they are mostly limited to manual jobs). Under the devastating impact of COVID-19, the challenges and barriers worsened: There are guidelines in the Philippines for PWDs, but the pandemic showed once more their shortcomings and that more inclusivity in policymaking in needed. Implementation and impact of guidelines remain to be seen. A comprehensive national database is non-existent. Efforts lack to inform and educate PWDs of their rights and of existing programs. Most importantly, PWDs are largely absent in the discourse and decision-making process to ensure programs are acceptable and accessible (2021).
Virtualahan, founded in October 2015, is a pioneering virtual vocational school for empowering Persons with disabilities (PWD) and other socio-economically excluded groups including out-of-school young people, indigenous young people, survivors of trafficking, single mothers, etc., with the skills and mindset to become competitive employees or entrepreneurs. Virtualahan provides a (mostly) virtual program focused on economic empowerment, with a focus on mental well-being, self-worth and self-care.
EMpower's 1st grant to Virtualahan will equip 75 marginalized youth 18-24 years old with digital skills via a 5-week intensive training program coupled with internship and job coaching to enable them to transit to decent work (Component A). Additionally, the programmatic funding of EMpower will allow the Virtualahan team to dig deeper into how a program model can be successfully replicated (Component B) and to take first steps towards more financial viability via a certification with a government body (Component C). With EMpower’s flexible funding support, Virtualahan aims to onboard a full-time Business Development Officer for stronger medium and long-term financial sustainability and wishes to further develop their Data Management System to strengthen Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning.
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