Microsoft Philippines and Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) recently announced the expansion of Stop Trafficking and Exploitation of People through Unlimited Potential or step-UP, its initiative which provides IT skills training to former victims of human trafficking and underprivileged youth and adults, concretely boosting their chances of finding better jobs.
“Human trafficking continues to be a bane in today’s society. As more and more Filipinos leave the country each day to find work overseas, human trafficking continues to be one of the major issues we need to focus on. We are expanding step-UP to make sure that there are adequate resources available to eradicate human trafficking and exploitation in the Philippines.” said Rafael Rollan, Managing Director, Microsoft Philippines.
As part of the expansion, Microsoft gave software and cash grants worth more than PHP12 million to VFFI, a private, non-profit NGO that works for the welfare of marginalized migrants.
The grant will enable VFFI to engage more NGOs and open ten new step-UP centers in different cities, provinces, and regions nationwide, including Bulacan, North Cotabato, Western Samar and Zamboanga. These are in addition to existing centers in Bacolod, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Cebu, Davao, Manila, Quezon City, and other locations.
“Our partnership with Microsoft for the step-UP program has given us a huge boost in the fight against human trafficking. Through the program, we are able to see former victims rebuild their own lives, find careers, and slowly be reintegrated into society,” said Ma. Cecilia Flores Oebanda, President and Executive Director, VFFI.
“With step-UP, heightened social awareness about human trafficking is also being achieved. Unfortunately, this problem continues to be a reality and we know that more people can benefit from the training. This is why we sought to expand the program and with the grant, we will be able to reach out to new partners and accommodate more individuals in the centers,” added Flores-Oebanda.
step-UP was introduced in May 2006 coinciding with the anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 9208 or the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.” Since the launch of the program almost three years ago, over ten thousand persons have received IT skills training in learning centers operated by VFF and its other NGO partners nationwide.
According to Rollan, around 33-percent of program graduates have been able to find alternative employment, while many have also decided to pursue further education.
“This is what we envisioned when we developed step-UP with Visayan Forum Foundation. We knew that technology can have a positive impact on people and step-UP is a concrete example of this. By delivering IT skills training to former victims of human trafficking, we are enabling people to regain confidence in themselves and rebuild their lives,” said Rollan.
Program participants undergo training on leadership and inter-personal skills and IT-related modules which are useful in building their knowledge and capabilities.
The curriculum also includes courses on computer basics, Word Processing, Presentation, Database, and Spreadsheet fundamentals, digital media, Internet, and Web design. Advanced courses on PC troubleshooting and hardware repair are also available. VFFI also offers a Life Skills Training module which complements the step-UP curriculum.
“We are pleased that the program has enabled a significant number of individuals be integrated into society and equipped them for the demands of daily life. As we enter the second phase of the project together with Visayan Forum Foundation and the other NGO sub-grantees, we can and will continue to provide skills training that create more opportunities for more people,” said Rollan.