With help from Irish Aid In-Country Micro-Project Scheme (ICMP) Pratthanadee Foundation conducted the project titled “Empowering Girls in Rural Northeast Thailand to Protect Themselves Against Domestic & Sexual Violence” during August and September 2018. Workshops were conducted in rural schools in the Issan region in three provinces: Ubon Ratchathani, Sisaket, and Amnat Charoen. Exceeding our target of 1,250 girls, Pratthanadee was able to help 1,436 girls gain practical skills and knowledge on how to access to safe resources when dealing with domestic and sexual violence in their communities, as well as how to avoid exploitative and abusive work environments if and when they migrate to urban cities. Conducting workshops called “Claim Your Rights,” we had the aim of raising awareness of dangerous situations such as toxic relationships, imbalanced power structures, financial dependency, unwanted pregnancies, and online grooming. What is more, we also provided information on existing rights and laws available to young girls, as well as the procedures to report violence and assault to the police. Pratthanadee considers this program a vital part of our curriculum. More than ever, it is essential to educate our youth on the current dangers within Thailand’s socio-economic context. Life skills that are unfortunately rarely discussed in most public schools, our program helps girls learn about the dangers in social media, safe contraceptive methods, as well as sexual assault and violence. Rather than brush these “taboo” issues under the rug, this workshop aimed to answer an important question: “These dangers do unfortunately occur, and if they do, what can you do to help yourself?”
Before training, 83% mentioned that they had experienced or witnessed a situation of violence. Despite this startling figure, 93.1% also declared that they had no idea about the services available to them to help them in this situation. Our staff also reported that some girls did not even know the emergency police telephone number. This demonstrates a severe lack of attention paid to sexual education in Thai public education institutions. We want to close this gap for good. Slowly but surely, Pratthanadee Foundation is using this program to change societal attitudes towards the way we as Thai people talk about sex, sexual violence, and violent criminal activity. After the workshop, more than 81.9% of attendees highly agreed with the statement: “Participating in the workshop, you have new knowledge and understand more about danger prevention.” What is more, more than 77.2% highly agreed with the statement: “Participating in the workshop, you now know some basic self-defense skills that you can use when you face any danger.” Only 50% felt that they were able to pass on this information in a concise manner, which only highlights the essentiality that similar programs be implemented on a wider scale by experienced and professional staff.
In comparison from last year, we found that school directors are showing a greater willingness to allow us to access their schools to train students. This does not only show that progress is being made, but that there is also legitimate demand for similar programs to be conducted. Furthermore, having support from renowned aid agencies only helps to further our relationships with rural schools in the Northeast.   Pratthanadee Foundation would like to express its sincere gratitude to the Irish Embassy and Irish Aid In-Country Micro-Project Scheme (ICMP) for their continuing support for our projects in Ubon Ratchathani, where the need for this program is clearly significant. This funding also helped Pratthanadee form relationships with new schools, which will enable us to continue growing and developing our programs in the future.