“I Witness Child Labor Everyday, and Now I Want to Make A Difference”
Growing up in an urban poor neighborhood, 17-year-old Angel is no stranger to minors working in hazardous jobs. She is dedicated to empower her fellow youth and campaign against child labor.
Angel wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her father works as a security guard who is earning around the minimum wage, while her mother is a sidewalk vendor. Recently, the mother temporary stopped selling after giving birth to their third child.
Angel and her family rent a shanty in a junkyard-turned-residential compound. It is located in a squatter area in Mandaue City, a first class urbanized city in Cebu province that is home to more than 360,000 people.
Everyday, Angel would witness some of her neighbors who are minors engage in laborious work. Some brave the highway to sell bottled water, rags, or newspapers to passing vehicles while others accepts lifting jobs in the market. A dumpsite, which was recently closed, was located near Angel’s house. Adults and children alike used to roam hills of trash to scavenge for sellable scaps.
This everyday reality fueled the 11th grader to study hard. Angel has done a good job academically despite going to school with an empty pocket in some days. She was also elected as the president not just in their school’s student government but in all high schools in the city. A talented writer, she also leads the school paper as the editor-in-chief.
Her involvement with extracurricular activities led her to attend a Child Labor Trafficking (CLT) campaign seminar by World Vision.
As the president of the student government, Angel campaigns against child labor trafficking by raising awareness to her fellow students.
Child Labor Trafficking in the Philippines
Child labor is defined as a work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
A 2011 study by the International Labor Organization found out that there are 3.2 million Filipino children, age 5-17 years old, are engaged in child labor. The study also discovered that the top industries where child labor commonly exists are in agriculture, industries such as mining, pyrotechnics manufacturing, and construction. Services such as domestic work and street work like sidewalk selling also made it to the list
A 2015 article from Rappler, an online-based media firm, states that there are 219,000 identified child laborers in Visayas.
World Vision’s Child Protection Compact Project
The Child Labor Trafficking seminar attended by Angel, along with other student leaders in different schools in Mandaue and Cebu City, is part of World Vision’s Child Protection Compact (CPC) Project.
It is a 4-year grant under the US-Philippines CPC partnership to jointly increase prevention efforts and protection for child victims of online sexual exploitation and child labor trafficking in the Philippines.
Leading the project, the International Justice Mission’s role is to porsecute individuals who committed violations against children. World Vision’s part is to empower community leaders, student leaders, and parents so they can prevent child abuse cases from happening.
A newly found purpose
After attending a series of CLT workshop, Angel has found a new purpose. “My idea of child issues before revolved around the usual education problems such as the lack of classrooms or concerns about the out-of-school youth,” the teen expresses. “I learned that there are more horrible things that could happen to a child such as child trafficking. As a student leader, I need to do something.”
Angel, along with her fellow student officers, conducted CLT-related activities such as awareness sharing, filmmaking, essay writing, and poster making. She plans to transfer her advocacy to the new set of student leaders for the next school year.
“Youth empowerment is the key to fight child labor trafficking,” cites the graduating student. “When they are informed and empowered, they have a better chance to protect themselves from abuse and exploitation.”
At home, Angel told her distant relative who is a minor to stop selling bottled water to vehicles along the highway. She advised the parents of the child to find education alternatives such as night school or Alternative Learning System.
A bright future
Angel still has one year left before graduating Senior High. She wants to pursue medicine and become a doctor someday. She thought of her parents who could not afford to send her in medschool so she is already eyeing multiple scholarships.
Her recent learning from World Vision also influenced her to make a slight change in her chosen career. “I hope to become a doctor but I don’t want to stay in big hospitals in the cities. I want to become a doctor in places where health service is lacking. Growing up in a poor community, I want to make an impact and serve people who are in most need,” shares the jovial teen.