Top training gives stateless girls a boost
June 2012: Although she’s just 23 years old, Meetee has been working to support her hill tribe family for more than 10 years and, unlike most people, she's rarely had a weekend off to relax and enjoy life.
Her life took a radical turn, however, when the headman of her village in Chiang Rai province informed her that Plan Thailand was looking for stateless girls like her who were keen to participate in hotel management training at Chiangsaen International Institute for Skill Development (CIISD). Much to her delight, Meetee, along with 29 other vulnerable girls learnt many new skills.
“Teachers taught me what I needed for a career in hotel management: things like working in a restaurant, making beds, and cooking,” she said.
After 4 months of training at the institute and a 2-month internship at SB hotel, Meetee found herself working at the front desk in the lobby of that same hotel and earning 7,500 baht (US$250) a month.
For an uneducated girl who had spent 4 years cleaning, washing and helping out in the lobby and restaurant of the hotel for a very low salary, this was a huge promotion.
Not only was Meetee better able to provide for her family, even to send her 2 younger sisters to school, but she also learnt to read and write.
“Sometimes it was difficult, but the school provided knowledge step by step, so I learnt easily.”
Hard and soft skills
The pilot programme that Meetee took part in was part of a collaborative effort between Plan Thailand and CIISD to provide marginalised and stateless youths with the vocational and entrepreneurial skills they need to earn a living.
The model employed—Livelihood-Linked Vocational Education for Thailand (LIVE-Thai)—is comprehensive: in addition to teaching technical skills, LIVE-Thai teaches the skills of life itself. It also bridges the supply and the demand sides of the equation, making girls "marketable" by developing their skills and knowledge and finding a suitable workplace for them.
The need for such a programme was great. Because Thai law allows stateless people to work in just 27 occupations, most of which are male-dominated, girls are forced to work in exploitative situations, like at karoake bars or, in the worst-case scenario, in the sex trade.
Meetee’s confidence is a shining example of how hard work and persistence can pay off, despite the most trying of circumstances.
“Although I am a stateless person, I have no more worries about my future because I have a good job.”