GLASS CEILING.  Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) graduate Nina Rivero works as an automotive technician in Qatar after breaking through the glass ceiling or gender discrimination in an industry dominated by men. Her employer surmises she was the first lady technician in the Middle East. (Photo courtesy of Nina Rivero)

MANILA -- In a world where most countries seem to be dominated by men, how can a woman prove herself worthy in a male-dominated workplace? For Nina Rivero, her dreams, her PHP10, and TVET (technical and vocational education and training) helped her achieve success.

Rivero's family isn't rich. Years ago, her father told her and her siblings that he could only afford to give them a secondary education. Left with no choice, the young Nina worked as a cook in a carinderia after graduating from high school.

Life was very hard back then. In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Rivero related she was a cook for two years, earning PHP120 per day, working from 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. She then worked as a helper afterwards.

"I told myself this (situation) should stop. I had to find a job to at least help improve our lives," she said.

Somebody told her to try enrolling at TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) since it's free. That person also told her it's easy for TESDA graduates to find a job. So she tried, failed in the first exam, and opted for a retake.

She wanted to take a welding course, citing that welding was in-demand at that time, whether here or abroad. But welding course was not open when she came to TESDA. Her second choice was cooking, since she already had an experience as a cook. There was also no vacancy in the course.

"Then I found automotive (course). It wasn't my choice, but I heard there's also money in the automotive (industry). So I picked this course," she narrated.

Rivero took the automotive course at the TESDA Women's Center in Taguig City from August 2007 to October 2008.

The young lady only had PHP10 as her allowance. "I had to walk from our house (in Pateros) to Market Market. The PHP10 was for my jeepney ride; then I would walk again from E. Service Road up to the Women's Center," she said.

She had to walk for about 45 minutes from her house, then another 20 minutes going to the Women's Center. Her class was every Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It was hard for her, especially when there were typhoons. But she also noted that her classmates were good to her. Some of them provided her with food and fare for her to go back home. Sometimes, too, she was able to ride with her classmate who had a car. "I just had to wait for my classmate in Buting, then we go together here," she related, while being interviewed at the TESDA Women's Center in Taguig City.

Blessing in disguise

Though Rivero wasn't able to enroll in the course that she wanted, she considers the automotive course as "God's will".

"Perhaps it was the will of God that the other two courses were not vacant at that time," she said.

After graduation, Rivero waited for four months before she was able to get a job in a hauler company in Cainta. That company services flammable trucks, she added.

Being a lady, she was not spared from discrimination.

"When I started there, I was not allowed to hold tools. I was asked to clean the sewer, the trucks. I was disappointed because I studied, and yet I was asked to do such things," she lamented.

Out of disappointment, Rivero did not go to work for three days.

"The company owner was mad at me when I came back. She told me I had no use in the company, and that the only thing that I could contribute was in cleaning and yet I was absent," she emphasized.

Rivero told the company owner that she came there as a technician and not as a cleaner.

“I was told that I can't because I'm a girl. So I asked her, 'Ma'am, how would you know? You haven't tried to see my skills yet. Why don't you ask me to work on a transmission, so you would see what I can do?'"

At that moment, a truck came, and Rivero said the company owner uttered, "Mayabang yang batang yan. Sige, yaan nyo magtrabaho mag-isa (That kid is arrogant. Let her work by herself)."

She didn't fail to prove herself.

Opportunities continued, and she was able to work in Alfardan Premier Motor's Inc. in Qatar for more than four years.

"Actually, in the Middle East, that job opportunity was not open for girls. They just tried if I can. My manager there told me I was the first lady technician in the Middle East," she shared.

"The Lord has blessed me. With His guidance, I was able to prove myself," she continued.

Meanwhile, an opportunity for her to work in Lennock Motor's Inc. in Australia came, and grabbed it.

Rivero resigned from her work in Qatar after weighing the advantages and disadvantages of both work opportunities. According to her, even if she was offered a promotion in Qatar, she would earn more in Australia.

She considers this opportunity as another blessing. Her Australian visa was approved on March 22.

Looking back

Rivero said she visits TESDA every time she goes home. She keeps in touch with her former trainors. She said she is thankful to her trainors, who didn't just teach them lessons, but also helped them build their confidence.

"I go here at TESDA every time I'm here in the Philippines," she said. This time, she no longer needs to walk.

She told PNA that while it was her dream to work abroad, her main goal, actually, was to get a job.

"Because life was really hard for us. Before, we had to look for the food that we could eat. So I really told myself I must be able to help my family," she said.

While she said they're not yet rich, Rivero emphasized that at least now, her family does not need to think where to get their food. Her nephews have complete allowances. She could also provide them with some rewards if they get high grades.

"I just give them what they want as a reward. Because I also want them to appreciate hardships in life. I believe they'd grow up stronger if they see that," Rivero added.

Working abroad had helped her provide for her family.

"Before, when it was raining, you would also see that it was raining inside our house. We had no electricity, no water, no appliances. I was able to provide all these for my family. I also asked my father to stop working the moment I became a technician. I was able to send my nephews to school. They will no longer experience what my family had experienced before," she said.

She mused that if there's no TESDA and tech-voc, she'd still be probably a cook now, or maybe a domestic helper, or probably jobless.

As a breadwinner, Rivero said she wants to become a mechanical engineer someday, although she couldn't find the time yet to study. In the future, she wants to manage a farm when she retires. (PNA)