Manila - A group of children on Labor Day, May 1, challenges the country’s next political leaders to improve their living condition and keep them out of hazardous work by providing their parents with decent and productive jobs. The group further urge candidates to bare their plans to help the country achieve its commitment to reducing the number of children engaged in the worst form of child labor by at least 75% in 2015.
According to “Bata Muna: Bumoto para sa Kapakanan ng mga Bata” campaigners, children suffer most if their parents are unemployed or underemployed. “As a result of parents’ unemployment or underemployment, children at a very young age are forced to find jobs to help augment the needs of the family,” says Anna Lindenfors, Country Director of Save the Children in the Philippines.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that more than 200 million children in the world engage in various forms of child labor. They work in hazardous environment, toil extremely long hours, and suffer from slavery and servitude. They are coerced to participate in prostitution, cyber pornography, drug trafficking, armed conflict, and other illicit activities.
In the Philippines, the 2011 Survey on Children of the National Statistics Office (NSO) said that the number of children engaged in hazardous work alone increased by 25% from 2.2 million in 2001 to 3 million in 2011, representing about 10% of the more than 29 million children aged 5-17.
“Hazardous work harms children’s health, safety or morals such as the case of children working in mines and deep sea fishing. They may be directly exposed to hazards such as sharp tools or poisonous chemicals,” says Lindenfors.
“While other hazards for child laborers may be less apparent such as the risk of abuse or problems resulting from long hours of work – still these put children in vulnerable situations,” adds Lindenfors.
Child laborers are indeed trapped in vulnerable situations. Even if they want to get away from their labor condition, there are no real and acceptable alternatives to improve their family’s state of living available to them.
“Child labor is rooted in poverty and lack of decent and productive work. The next leaders of this country must recognize and address the root causes of child labor. We cannot effectively address the problem of child labor unless decent work is made available to parents and caretakers. If the employment opportunities are addressed, children will no longer be forced to work and will remain in school,” explains Magnolia Jacinto, Acting Regional Coordinator of Asia Against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs).
“Children engaged in child labor are denied the chance to enjoy their childhood because they are burdened with financial woes. We are hoping that the future leaders will look at economic and social policies and actions that will create opportunities for parents, thereby fostering an enabling environment for children,” adds Hazel Bitaña, Regional Trainer of Asia ACTs.
Meanwhile, a recent survey conducted by Children Youth Organization (CYO), an organization of more than 180 children below 17 years old in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, revealed that 50% of children in their community who are engaged in collecting paper and plastic scraps in streets to earn money belong to big families and have 4 to 6 siblings. Also, more than half of them are aware that child labor is prohibited under Philippines law and yet 72% of them still choose to work to help augment the earnings of their family. These children also complain of getting tired, getting bruises, being ashamed and envious of other children.
These children demand the government to provide their parents, especially parents who did not finish their education, with jobs to keep them from that kind of work.
“While the next political leaders will pave the way for a better life for children and their families, your votes can make it happen. You must choose leaders who will stand up and fight for their rights,” says Lindenfors.
To guide the voters in choosing these leaders, Bata Muna came up with a checklist that will help voters identify pro-children candidates. In the checklist, a pro-children candidate must have a concrete platform that advances the rights of children, especially the most vulnerable children; must have already stood up for children and their rights and continues to do so; must value children’s involvement and participation; one who thinks and acts independently for the good of the majority, especially of children; must not be corrupt; must have no record of or has not violated any children’s rights and human rights violations; and must be progressive – one who thinks of the present and the future generations.
Bata Muna is a nationwide campaign aimed at advancing children’s issues in the heart of electoral discussions in the 2013 National Elections. It is jointly organized by Save the Children, Samahan ng Mamamayan – Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO), Children Talk to Children (C2C) about the UN CRC Project children’s organizations AKKAP, AYM, CYO and YMETCO, Plan International, Asia ACTs, WomanHealth Philippines, ChildFund,Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), Caraga Emergency Response Group (CERG), Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights and Protection (MAGCRP), Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN), World Vision, Intervida Philippines Foundation (Intervida), Cebu Court Appointed Special Advocates /Guardian Ad Litem (CASA/GAL)Volunteers Association Inc., Inclusive Education Network Chapter (IEN), Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), Lingap Pangkabataan Inc., Angels of Peace Academy Foundation Inc., Open Heart Foundation, NGO Coalition, ERDA, ChildHope Asia Philippines, Reina Federation, Families and Children for Empowerment and Development (FCED) Foundation Inc., and Yakap sa Kaunlaran ng Bata Inc.
Save the Children works in 120 countries. We save children's lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential.