|January 22, 1998|
Global March Launches Fight Against Child Labor
Anthony Singson de la Cruz and Lisa C. Ito
"Minsan lang sila bata. Ibalik ang karapatan nilang mag-aral," was the call of an estimated 10,000 participants during last Saturday's anti-child labor parade at the Quezon Memorial Circle.
Dubbed as the Global March Against Child Labor, the day-long activity marked the Manila kick-off of a six-month series of marches designated in various countries around the globe. To run from January 17 to May 3, these marches are set to culminate in June for the drafting of the new International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on child labor in Geneva, Switzerland.
"This [Global March] is a mobilization to express the issue of child labor sa buong mundo. Ito ay isang initiative ng mga NGOs sa lokal at internasyonal na lebel upang maipahayag ang pagtutol sa pagtratrabaho ng mga bata sa lahat ng larangan," said Philippine coordinator and Visayan Forum member Cecilia Oebanda.
Starting with the Philippines, the march is set to traverse the Asian continent, passing through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Iran, and finally Turkey. Other starting points include Rio de Janiero in Brazil and Nairobi in Africa.
The Metro Manila parade was spearheaded by the Visayan Forum, a non-governmental organization (NGO) lobbying for the rights of child laborers, the ILO-IPEC and other NGOs, and backed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Children and NGO members from Pakistan, Iran, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Turkey joined their Filipino counterparts in the event. An estimated 10,000 participants, including a core group representing child laborers themselves, spent the whole day at the Quezon Memorial Circle. Highlights of the event included a one-minute noise barrage and a launching ceremony for the said core group. A film showing of Minsan Lang Sila Bata, a documentary on child labor, mini-programs, experience-sharing and a booth-to-booth educational trip were likewise featured.
The said march was conceptualized after a meeting on February 21-22, 1996, between three international child labor groups, namely the Anti-Slavery International, SACCs and Lovib. The mobilization was planned in response to the increasing number of child labor cases.
Oebanda stressed the reason why the Philippines had been designated as the kick-off point for Asia. "Kasi may unity among the NGOs, increased community support in child labor prevention, experiences like the [EDSA revolution] kung saan [naipakita] ang ating mga adhikain. At isa pa, malala na rin ang sitwasyon ng child labor sa bansa natin," she said.
In the Philippines alone, there are around 3.7 million victims of child labor according tothe 1995 survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO). Around the world, the most recent estimate made by the ILO of child laborers reached a high of 250 million, with nearly half employed on a full-time basis. Sixty-one percent are reportedly from Asia while forty percent work in Africa, all employed in a diverse range of jobs. In the Philippines, for example, occupations range from commercial agriculture, deep-sea diving or muro-ami, mining, service trades, construction work, quarrying, and even commercial sexual exploitation.