Supporting access to employment for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the Philippines
Broadening access to equitable employment is part of Boldr’s mission. It feeds into our Theory of Change, our values, and our culture. Through impact sourcing initiatives, we aspire to invest in hidden talent and help connect them to meaningful employment that would otherwise not have existed for those individuals. We do this by partnering with companies or non-profit organizations that share our views of transforming blockers into opportunities. Our most recent partnership was with Virtualahan.
Understanding the root cause of PWD unemployment
Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are often marginalized in the workplace. According to the United Nations, unemployment rates soar between 80% to 90% for PWDs of working age in developing countries, while industrialized countries struggle with rates ranging from 50% to 70%. These figures paint a bleak picture of exclusion for equitable employment — and untapped potential for impact-driven companies that want to make a real difference.
However, one of the primary driving factors for this alarming disparity can be found much earlier in the lives of those living with disabilities, and that is the lack of access to education for children with disabilities. Statistics provided by the Global Partnership for Education(GPE) and UNICEF, reveal that a staggering 90% of children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries do not have access to education. Virtualahan is rewriting this narrative by providing holistic solutions to these challenges.
From inclusive education to inclusive employment
Located in the Philippines, Virtualahan is a virtual school that specializes in economically empowering people with disabilities and chronic diseases through education and job readiness training. Their approach encompasses inclusive and accessible skills training for online employment, well-being sessions to enhance self-worth, employment support for greater employability, and partnerships for inclusive hiring. Through rigorous training, Virtualahan equips its students with sought-after skills, ranging from lead generation to graphic design, thereby opening doors to online employment opportunities that do not hinge on traditional academic qualifications.
Moreover, the organization understands that well-being is at the core of personal and professional growth. That’s why they offer psychological support sessions, enabling participants to process past experiences, manage emotions, and plan for a brighter future. Employment support activities, such as job shadowing and mentorship, further enhance employability, while workshops on interviews and resume-building instill confidence. Virtualahan’s commitment extends to encouraging organizations to adopt inclusive hiring practices, ultimately fostering partnerships that create employment opportunities for PWDs.
Virtualahan’s results are a testament to their impact. With over 1000 graduates and an impressive 98% completion rate, the organization has achieved a 60% employment rate, even amid the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Their graduates enjoy incomes exceeding the minimum wage by 60%, making a tangible difference in their lives.
Beyond the numbers, Virtualahan’s influence extends nationwide, reaching over 60 provinces and earning them more than 20 major awards. This year, Virtualahan was touted as an Impact Sourcing Influencer by the Global Impacts Sourcing Award for its impact ripples across communities, including solo parents, out-of-school youth, indigenous people, recovering addicts, and individuals deprived of liberty.
Unfortunately, challenges persist, primarily stemming from limited scholarship grants and the lack of necessary technology. While their reach is constrained, Virtualahan’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those related to poverty reduction, health and well-being, quality education, decent work, reduced inequalities, and partnerships for goals, remains unwavering.
Boldr and Virtualahan join forces
In September 2023 Boldr partnered with Virtualahan to support the upskilling of three persons with disabilities. Through this partnership, Boldr will provide financial support for the three scholars to complete Virtualahan’s training course, with the aim of offering the candidates employment opportunities thereafter. Virtualahan will also provide guidance for Boldr to create a PWD-ready working environment.
“We are thrilled about this partnership with Boldr,” said Alfred Gersava, Chief Executive Officer of Virtualahan. “We share a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. This partnership will deliver a deep, meaningful, and lasting positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities. We are grateful for their support in empowering the lives of the disadvantaged communities.”
This is only a small step towards a greater goal, but we are already seeing the possibilities that this could create for PWDs while meeting our commitment to make a real change in the communities in which we operate.
Glo Guevarra, Global Manager for Impact at Boldr shared her view on the partnership. “This is our first impact-sourcing partnership that focuses solely on training and hiring PWDs. We’re happy to kickstart this in our Philippine office. We know there’s a lot to learn in the process and we’re excited to see where this will lead.”
At a time when the world is striving for inclusivity and equality, companies and consumers are starting to hold others accountable. Partnerships like the one between Boldr and Virtualahan, prove that with the right support and opportunities, PWDs can not only achieve their dreams but also enrich the workforce and society at large.
James Fouche is the Content Manager at Boldr, as well as an author and a columnist. He is passionate about sharing his love of reading and writing with others.