She sits at a computer in an internet cafe, her fingers hovering over the keyboard. It's Friday - her only day off - and she's come with her friends to see if anything has arrived by e-mail from the daughter or husband she's left 7,000km away in the Philippines. Time is of the essence in an internet cafe that charges by the hour, and yet the time it takes to complete a response is prolonged because she has yet to figure out all of the keyboard's symbols. Such is the scenario for some Filipina women and others, whose jobs as domestic servants often leave few opportunities to build other skills, such as improved computer literacy.
A new training initiative by a shelter at the Philippine overseas labour office in Abu Dhabi aims to change that. Organised by Grace Princesa, the ambassador to the UAE from the Philippines, the training programme offers women, most of whom have left their jobs in the country on account of abuse, the chance to learn new skills before they are repatriated to their communities of origin. Classes in entrepreneurship and hair and beauty skills are also offered. For the 200 women currently staying at the shelter, these classes may enhance their prospects for employment when they arrive back home.
While this programme is a step in the right direction, it is unfortunate that there are not more programmes like it. If it continues to be a success, the initiative could be a model of what nations offer their citizens while they work abroad. In a country where labour issues are still contentious topics, such efforts by embassies to ensure the well-being of their citizens will enhance the UAE's ability to recruit the labour it needs to achieve its development goals. While no one should suffer the injustice of abuse, we hope such programmes continue for the benefit of the women and men who turn to them in times of need.