By Mrs Jintana Chanbamrung, Director General Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development (DWF)
“Lessons-Learned in Working with Networks of Thai Women Volunteers Abroad and the DWF Long-Term Plans and Policy.”
On the occasion of the Thai Women Network in Europe (TWNE)’s Annual Seminar entitled “Alone…But Not Lonely!” held on 21st May 2022 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
H.E. Morakot Srisawat
(Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand of the Austrian Republic, Slovak republic, Republic of Slovenia and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations and International Organization in Vienna)
Mr. Zoran Jankovic, Governor of Ljubljana
Mme Simona Volaj Rakuscek, Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Thailand of Ljubljana
Mr. Drazen Jeremič, Guest Speaker from SPIRIT organization
Mrs. Chongcharoen Sornkaew Grimsmann, Co-Host of the Annual Seminar on behalf of TWNE
Mrs. Manatsanan Krulc, Co-Host of the Annual Seminar on behalf of the Thai People in Slovenia Group
Executive Director Members, individual and organizational and members of TWNE from 12 European countries, including Thailand, France, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Greece, Slovenia, Austria and Thailand)
Thai women and Thai people in the Republic of Slovenia
First of all, I would like to convey my congratulations on the organization of the 2022 Annual General Meeting and Seminar of the Thai Women Network in Europe in Ljubljana, the Republic of Slovenia which is the first on-site meeting since the lock-down in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
This is the second time that I have been invited to give a keynote address to TWNE.
The first one was in 2021 on the theme « Creation-Promotion-Enrichment (Parcourrir. Agrandir. Enrichir.)” to celebrate TWNE’s 20th Anniversary, via remote meeting system.
For this second time, I am very sorry that I could not attend the event in person due to important missions in Thailand.
Therefore, I would like to send a message for the opening ceremony of the 2022 annual seminar entitled “Alone…But Not Lonely” which is part of the TWNE’s Project to Strengthen Working Mechanism of Social Volunteers in assisting Thai Widows and Widowers as well as Isolated Thais in Europe”
Next, I would like to talk about some lessons-learned in working with of networks of Thai women overseas in general.
The Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development (DWF) of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security is a government agency with a mission to promote women and families in Thailand.
DWF acknowledges the importance of working in partnership with networks of Thai women and Thai people aboard and has been working with these networks since 2011.
In the past two years, DWF has worked with 78 networks and groups covering Europe, Asia and Australia regions.
DWF has organized six training workshops to strengthen capacity of Thai volunteers who support and assist Thai women married to non-Thai nationals, and we conducted two preparation training courses for Thai women who were moving aboard.
Altogether, more than 400 people who have attended and passed our training courses.
Despite COVID-19 crisis that obstructed all agencies, DWF was able to continue sharing knowledge through six rounds of E-meetings in collaboration with networks of Thai women aboard.
Topics covered in these online events including
(1) E-learning course to build and increase capacity of social development volunteers (อพม.) outside of Thailand.
(2) Social volunteers in Europe welcome newcomers from Thailand.
(3) Unique employment and occupations of Thai women in France, Japan and the Netherlands.
4) Celebration of the International Women’s Day on 8th March (5) Self preparation for the New Normal lifestyle.
(6) Update on immigration regulations due to COVID-19 restrictions measures.
DWF has turned crisis into opportunity by intensifying collaboration and partnership although we could not meet in person.
We have profited from optimizing online meeting platforms on this wide variety of topics together with sisters and brothers in other countries.
It can be said that the past two years have seen us working together actively to achieve our common goals.
Currently, DWF is working together with Khon Kaen University to review and document lessons-learned of social volunteer work in helping Thai women aboard, covering Europe, Asia and Australia.
DWF has also organized five important activities together with Thai women networks, as the followings:
First is the pilot project to understand life of women and families at the community of origin, in collaboration with TWNE.
We visited Women and Families Development Learning Center in Chiang Rai Province.
The mission comprised of nine delegates, including five TWNE representatives.
We learned about the problems encountered by the target groups, their aspirations and opportunities to attend job skills training courses, as well as the Center’s program on vocational development and life skills promotion.
We have exchanged ideas and opinions during this visit and we received useful suggestions that could help advance our operation in the field and inspire other social volunteers.
Second is the activity to enhance efficiency of Thai Women networks aboard.
The Ministry has a mechanism including Department of Social Development and Welfare, whose mandate covers social volunteers’ work. We discussed about the work of social development volunteers abroad, promotion of registration for certification of charitable organizations (องค์กรสาธารณประโยชน์) abroad, how to apply for support for the Social Welfare Promotion Fund that provide support both to certified organizations in Thailand and outside of Thailand.
I believe this is the way we can increase channels of support for Thai women abroad.
Next is the recent platform created by DWF, called “Family Line” or “Friends of Family (เพื่อนครอบครัว). ”In particular, Friends of Family has been active for one year now, starting on 12th April 2021. It is a knowledge platform where visitors can find questions and answers on several topics and issues, through the counselling room.
Problems include domestic violence, family law, Centers for Single Mothers, gender discrimination, early child development, new family preparation, being new parents, families with teenagers and elderly, including adapting life to new situations.
This knowledge is accessible for everyone’s learning. Family Line has received a lot of contacts from the general public that seeks for information and asks for counsel.
The Ministry also has created Support Line 1300 that is another channel to seek for social work assistance.
TWNE can collaborate with us by visiting our website and contact us in case there are issues to work together. We much welcome the collaboration in this area.
Third was the preparation of guidelines for Thai women who are planning to migrate aboard. We convened the first onsite training on 24th March 2022 in Khon Kaen Province. The attendees were 50 Thai women who were preparing to move aboard either for study, work or marriage.
Interesting observation from the training was that the Thai women attendees are aware of the importance of being well prepared in the areas of languages, cultures, travel processes and relevant laws.
This is important for the DWF so that we can assist these women better in their migration while migrating women are also aware of what channels they can seek for support in case of trouble.
DWF also operates a Ying Thai Clinic for Thai women in a multicultural society and courses on career skills development through our Learning and Family Development Centers, which is an important aspect of our work. I have to thank Thai women networks overseas who shared ideas and knowledge with us, which we have relayed to women who intend or are on the path to move go aboard.
Fourth is the study of systems of support and assistance guidelines in assisting Thai women overseas in their integration. The study is in collaboration with the Khon Kaen University. This is very important because the findings will help us to define our work in the future. In this project, Head of the Working Group designed survey questionnaires.
We also conducted one online meeting on 27th April 2022 with social volunteer and experts in Europe to collect lessons-learned and adapt them into the new questionnaire.
This project allows DWF to appreciate strength and potential of Thai social volunteers and agencies in Europe who have various missions but a common goal to protect the rights and promote quality of life of migrant Thai women for study, work or marriage.
Fifth is the Single Mothers and Family Services Center Project which is considered our pride. The Center’s mission is in line with the topic of the TWNE Seminar this year.
In Thailand and other countries, we can see more and more centers for single mothers or single fathers. DWF recognizes the need to assist these special target groups. Therefore, we have open nine single mother centers, located in the Learning and Development Centers for Women and Families in all regions including Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Khon Kaen, Sisaket, Chonburi, Nonthaburi, Phitsanulok and Songkhla. We have provided counselling, referred cases and offered job skills training.
If single mothers would like to attend our courses, we offer day-care services to their children so that the mothers can attend courses without worry.
This is an example of how we have adapted and placed greater important on job skills development. We take care of children ages 2-6 years old while mothers are learning job skills.
In addition to training, DWF has also taken proactive steps by offering counselling services and outreaching into communities to do home visits. Our outreach operation allows more single mothers to have access to government services.
We have also increased our services to single mothers through our Centers in Bangkok Metropolitan, in Nakhon Ratchasima, and in Surat Thani. Currently we have 12 Centers for single mothers spreading throughout Thailand. Our outreach activities include projects like Family Line, Empowerment of single mothers and Peer Groups for Single Mothers under the Four Ss concepts: Strong Moms. 4 Smarts 4 Know 4 Build, which consists of :
(1) Smart mind is an activity to empower single mothers both physically and psychologically. How to be single mom. How to care for children.
(2) Smart knowledge is about imparting knowledge on child care and rearing, life skills such as saving skills.
(3) Smart job is a holistic employment skill development including job skills, savings skills, income generation, marketing, funding. If single mothers are empowered in these areas, they will be able to take better care of themselves and their children and attain a good quality of life.
(4) Smart community is about building participation in the community. Single mothers can be part of the community while civil society can play role in promoting smooth integration of single-parent families in the society.
All of these are definitions of the DWF’s Four Smarts.
With regards to DWF’s long-term policy and plans to cooperate with Thai Women Network in Europe, we intend to work closely together to promote quality of life for women abroad and for their families.
We will focus on communities of origin, transit communities and destination communities.
First, at communities of origin, we are talking about preparing Thai women who are going to migrate aboard. We have prepared curriculum that respond to their problems and needs, based on the lessons-learned and our dialogue with Thai Women Network in Europe. These include women who are planning to move for study, for work or for marriage, as well women who are returning to Thailand.
Second, at the destination countries, we work in partnership with Thai women networks to refer cases of Thai women living abroad or those wanting to return to Thailand, through helpline channels such as Support Hotline 1300, or Family Line and through strengthening Thai women volunteers abroad through training forums, meetings, study trips, capacity building and exchanging lessons in various fields.
Third, being partner on women’s issues such as building capacity of women’s networks.
As mentioned, we aim at enhancing capacity of single mothers’ network through empowering them in areas of Four Smarts, promoting gender diversity and equality, promoting cross-cultural family institutions, particularly in preventing and resolving problems relating to domestic violence, and promoting the potential of handicapped Thai women foreign countries.
In conclusion, I wish all participants good health and the TWNE’s meeting today a success according to its objectives.
DWF stands ready to support and work collaboratively with Thai women networks aboard. I hope to be able to attend TWNE’s meeting in person one day in the future.
Thank you everyone. Sawasdee kha.