“It’s difficult to work in sugarcane farms but I must sacrifice for the sake of my family,” remarked 17-year old John*. Working in the sugarcane farms since he was 12 years old, John is one of the 2.99 million Filipino children engaged in hazardous work in the country who are forced to work with poverty being the main driver, according to the 2011 NSO Survey on Children. John cuts canes, hauls, and loads them on to the trucks during the harvest season, activities that are considered hazardous based on the findings of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Analysis on Hazardous Work of Children in Sugarcane Farms conducted by the University of the Philippines Social Action and Research for Foundation, Inc. (UPSARDF) in 2014.
Often, child laborers miss school, especially during the harvest season, to earn extra income for the family’s basic needs or for school expenses. At times, children who cannot keep up with the school lessons because of prolonged absences drop out from school altogether. Without adequate education and life skills, child laborers tend to have limited work opportunities when they become adults, creating an extended cycle of poverty. ABK3 LEAP project’s efforts strive to bring child laborers back to school, keep the working children in school while eliminating their participation in hazardous work, and help them complete school.
On July 24, 2015, ABK3 LEAP, in partnership with the Provincial Council for the Rights and Welfare of Children (PCRWC) of Negros Occidental, aims to amplify the plight of Negrense child laborers like John at the provincial celebration of World Day Against Child Labor (WDACL) at the Provincial Lagoon in Bacolod City. At least one thousand children, parents, local government units and sugar industry partners from the 14 partner cities and municipalities in Negros Occidental will gather to join hands and raise their voices in the advocacy to end hazardous child labor in the sugar industry in the province. This year’s theme “No to Child Labour, Yes to Quality Education” emphasizes the importance of adequate education and skills as a key step in breaking the vicious cycle of child labor in families.
A “March Against Child Labor” will kick-off the celebration at 8AM while booths will be set up by partner cities and municipalities to showcase the different products and services resulting from the various livelihoods and skills training assistance provided to the household beneficiaries by ABK3 LEAP and its partners. A short program will commence at 10AM to celebrate the invaluable contribution of ABK3 LEAP’s partners in the advocacy against child labor in sugarcane farms.
Now in its final year of project implementation, ABK3 LEAP is directly assisting 54,000 children from 30,331 households in 11 sugar producing provinces in the country, including Negros Occidental, and continues to rally local governments, communities, schools and the private sector in accelerating and sustaining policies and programs to help support child laborers and their families.
“I must strive hard to finish my studies so that I can help raise our family’s life status. I hope someday that there will be no more children working in sugarcane farms,” shares John.
* Not his real name
By Dorothy Mae Albiento, Advocacy and Communications Specialist
ABK3 LEAP is implemented by World Vision Development Foundation, in partnership with ChildFund Philippines, Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation, Inc. (ERDA), Sugar Industry Foundation, Inc. (SIFI), Community Economic Ventures, Inc. (CEVI), and University of the Philippines Social Action and Research for Development Foundation, Inc. (UPSARDF). Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor. This press release does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.