Last Feb.7, the young entrepreneur Ryan Gersava provides digital skills training to individuals marginalized by their disability or health condition to accomplish great, and even mundane, things in life. He knows what he speaks of—Ryan once aspired to become a medical doctor but was hindered by social convention and professional restrictions.
“Growing up with high dreams of becoming a doctor and realizing that I couldn’t become one because of a medical condition did not stop me from trying to do something about inequality in society. So I started Virtualahan to create equal opportunities through technology,” said Ryan.
Speaking in a breakout session at the recent Barangay Walang Iwanan 2019 (BWI 2019) summit, Ryan shared his experiences about the challenge of inclusion persons with disabilities (PWDs) face in their everyday lives. BWI 2019, co-hosted by Gawad Kalinga, French platform Convergences, and French NGO ACTED, gathered advocates and delegates from the public, private, and civic sectors to discuss and draw up solutions to address poverty and environmental issues in the country.
Ryan was diagnosed with Hepatitis B at a young age, but he did not let this cripple his dream to work in the medical field. He became a medical technician in a local hospital where he discovered how people with disabilities and certain conditions were denied access to better employment opportunities. This led him to form Virtualahan, which trains individuals who are victims of employment discrimination due to disabilities and medical condition, and hires them to work in the outsourcing industry.
At Virtualahan, we provide this through employment support, life coaching, and the promotion of everyone’s well-being,” Ryan said. “We train our community members to become community leaders, being great examples to other PWDs and encouraging them to contribute to Virtualahan for us to grow as a social enterprise.”
Through his enterprise, Ryan has created an employment model that promotes job equality, and inclusive and sustainable employment. He has also realized his goal of creating a workplace where everyone is treated fairly and equally.
In the same breakout session, during the Convergences Forum of the BWI 2019 event, Carmen Reyes Zubiaga, officer-in-charge of the National Council on Disability Affairs, pointed to the failure of state parties and agencies to address the barriers PWDs face to participate in and partake of the benefits from social and economic activities in their communities. PWDs do not have proper access to health and rehabilitation, the built environment, public transport, and information and communication technology, education, technical and vocational training, and decent work.
“People with disabilities do not need pity. They need to be given opportunities. Change can only happen when local executives and policy makers work together to create more jobs, develop more entrepreneurs, and provide better access for PWDs in the workplace,” emphasized Zubiaga.
“The sad truth is that PWDs are left behind when it comes to the progress of the country and they deserve equal rights and treatment as every other regular person,” said Fabien Courteille, the Philippine lead for triple zero alliance of ACTED/Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation. “Our Barangay Walang Iwanan 2019 summit is the best avenue for key players and actors in society to work together and come up with the best solutions to our most pressing environmental and social issues in the country.”
Courteille added that the community can do much more to “pave the way toward a 3Zero Philippines.
We are hopeful that we will be able to encourage more youth, stakeholders, and key decision makers to be part of our movement for a Zero Inclusion, Zero Carbon, and Zero Poverty Philippines.”
BWI 2019 is a collaborative effort among leading non-profit organization Gawad Kalinga, French platform Convergences and French NGO ACTED, that aims to gather stakeholders to discuss and act on urgent social and environmental issues, transforming Filipino communities towards the 3Zero Philippines goal (Zero Exclusion, Zero Carbon, and Zero Poverty).
Facebook: @gawadkalinga / www.convergences.org/philippinesbarangay-walang-iwanan-2019/.