During the DOLE Household Profiling activity conducted in the province by enumerators last March to May 2014, it was found out that Barangay Siloh in Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay has high incidence of working children, there were at least 96 children identified in the survey. This figure prompted this Office together with LGU Siay and Barangay Officials of Siloh to convene for a meeting and validate results of the survey. It is also during this time that the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) was reactivated. A follow-up meeting was made last August 27, 2014 wherein the parents of child workers agreed for a Rapid Assessment Activity and Planning Workshop on September 18, 2014.
During the conduct of the Rapid Assessment majority of the children expressed that they do not like and grew tired of nipa making because they can cut their hands, a very laborious work (hauling nipa to the buyers) and dangerous especially in going to the mangrove to harvest nipa leaves. Some of the children reported that aside from nipa making the boys engage in diving for river sand and sell it to buyers. Sometimes they get afraid because they might drown while diving. The most touching in their sharing was when small children (6-8 yrs. old) shared their simple dreams; to eat in Jollibee, to have new slippers and clothes. While bigger kids (9-15 yrs. old) dream to finish their studies to become professional teachers, police, nurse, doctor, and lawyer.
Taking inspiration from the simple dreams of the child workers, a very meaningful and significant event was held for the 88 child workers in Siloh on December 22, 2014 at Siay Municipal Gym, Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay. The event was dubbed Project Angel Tree: Pamaskong Handog para samga Batang Manggagawa sa Barangay Siloh.” The activity gave the opportunity to the child laborers to enjoy the day by playing games with the Jollibee mascot. They cheer loudly with each game and took turns to have a picture taken with the mascot.Each children was also granted with their wish to have new slippers. Their faces beamed as they lined-up to fit their new pair of colorful flip-flops. Additional grocery items were also distributed which was sponsored by DOLE, Ateneo de Zamboanga School of Medicine, LGU-Siay and the Barangay LGU of Siloh.
Another gift-giving event was held in Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay last July 03, 2015 for the benefit of the child laborers in Barangay Siloh. This time DOLE has partnered with DepEd Sibugay and Marian College to distribute new school supplies and new slippers to the 89 child laborers and 109 pupils of Siloh Elementary School. Marian College - a local college in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay was able to gather more than 200 sets of school supplies from its generous benefactors in Manila and brought it to the children in Siloh. Their team was composed of 16 student-volunteers and two personnel headed by Sr. Judith and Ms. Jonie Yap. The team from the Department of Education, Division of Zamboanga Sibugay headed by the Education Supervisor Mrs. Monalisa Babiera has also gathered more than 100 sets of new slippers from its sponsors while the DOLE added 50 sets of new slippers which was distributed to the child laborers and selected pupils of Siloh Elementary School.
One of the activities identified during the Stakeholders Consultation conducted in November 2014 was the access to livelihood for parents of child workers to help augment their income to support the schooling needs of their children. The livelihood project they agreed to implement wad Nipa Shingles Production and Commissary Store. The body agreed during the consultation that before the livelihood project will be implemented, parents of child workers shall undergo capacity/skills training as part of their social preparation and readiness in terms of project implementation. On June 18 to 20, 2015 the convergence team headed by the DOLE together with the LGU Siay and Barangay LGU of Siloh conducted the “Capacity Training for Parents of Child Workers in Barangay Siloh on Organizational Development Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy”. On December 22, 2015 the livelihood grant amounting to Php 404,000 was awarded to the Siloh Parents and Child Labor Association.
The parents of child workers in Siloh knew at the start that they need a lot of work to do to eliminate child labor in Siloh and it cannot be solved immediately. But there is no other way but to change and it will start from within their selves. Slowly but surely the Association, the DOLE and other stakeholders gained small victories in eliminating child labor in the community. Since 2014, the Barangay Captain of Siloh, Nelcy D. Kling, is very happy to announce that because of the program there are no more children working in the production area instead all of them are now in school.
The fight against child labor is also a fight against poverty. Our struggle to eliminate this recurrent problem may not be easy but it is attainable, especially if there is partnership and collaboration between and among government agencies, local leaders, private institutions and other stakeholders for development. With these partnerships and collaborations we hope to make a change and difference in the lives of the child laborers and their parents in Barangay Butong and Siloh.
Source: Edyll Grace P. Poligrates, ZSFO
Article from DOLE Regional Office No. 9 Website