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2 Barangays in Sibugay decalred Child Labor-Free
Thu, Jan 14, 2016 (Source: ZSFO)
Two barangays in Zamboanga Sibugay were declared by DOLE Region 09 as Child Labor-Free Barangays last December 21-22, 2015. The recipients of the certification were Barangay Butong, in Diplahan and Barangay Siloh, in Siay. The simple awarding ceremony was led by the Field Office Head of DOLE Sibugay, Supervising LEO Elamsalih E. Ungad together with the Regional Child Labor Program Focal Mrs. Pilar T. Salazar which was held in the respective barangay hall of the aforementioned.

The certification of a Child Labor-Free Barangay was conferred to the two recipients because of the commitment and support from various stakeholders which includes the Barangay Council, LGU, Government Agencies, GOCC, Non-Government Organizations, and Private Institutions that encouraged the elimination of child labor in the barangay.

The certification process was not an easy task for the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children(BCPC) of the two barangays. The process entails several weeks of preparation for the documentary requirements and after submitting the documents the Regional Child Labor Committee (RCLC) validated the documents and conducted site visit and random interview to the program implementers. After deliberation on the merits of conferring the Child Labor-Free Barangay Certificate the RCLC approved the conferment of the certification. No less than the DOLE 09 Regional Sisinio B. Cano, CESO IV signed and issued the Child Labor-Free Barangay Certificate to the two barangays.

In recognition of its effort to be certified as a Child Labor-Free Barangay the recipient barangays received Plaque of Recognition as Child Labor-Free Barangay. They also become partner-advocates for the Philippine Program Against Child Labor and priority for endorsement to DOLE programs and services.

The Continuing Journey of Barangay Butong Towards a CL-Free Barangay

Barangay Butong is one of the 22 barangays in the Municipality of Diplahan which is located in the eastern part of the province. The primary economic activity of the barangay is coal mining which supports other businesses in the community. Reports of child workers involved in the small scale coal mining or coal sifting at the river banks has reached this Office which resulted to an investigation in the area.

On August 2012 Barangay Butong became the pilot area for the Child Labor Free-Barangay Program of DOLE. The successful program launching prompted the formation of the organization of parents of child workers and the conduct of Rapid Assessment and Planning Workshop and Convergence Meeting with the beneficiaries and stakeholders of the Child Labor-Free Barangay Program.

Since the launching of the program in 2012, various activities from stakeholders were conducted to eliminate child labor in the barangay. The PNOC-Exploration in Malangas collaborated with Barangay Butong in the distribution of school bags and supplies putting emphasis on the importance of education of children.This was reinforced by the Adopt a Child Trust Fund of DepEd wherein school shoes, raincoats, umbrella and school supplies were distributed to school children. The Municipal Agriculture Office has also distributed vegetable seeds to majority of households promoting food sustainability and nutrition of children. This activity was also complemented by the supplemental feeding program to 120 schoolers and school children of the Municipal Nutrition Office. Health services were also provided by the Municipal Health Office in which 312 children in the area were able to received immunization and vaccination, vitamin supplementation and deworming. Behind all this efforts to change the mindset of parents and the community towards child labor in mining was the active participation and facilitation of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in close partnership with the Butong Parents of Child Workers Association.

The DOLE has also extended livelihood support to the parents of the child workers. The goal of the Livelihood Starter Kit Project of the DOLE is to provide jigs and tools to to the parents of child workers in Butong that will enable them to quickly engage in a sustainable livelihood undertaking to help augment their family income thus preventing their children from working in the mines. Majority of the tools and jigs provided were on snacks vending and commercial cooking which amounted to 240,000.00 pesos that will benefit at least 27 child workers.

The stoppage of mining activities in Diplahan has a huge impact to the economy of the area due to the fact that coal mining is a primary driver of the economy in the municipality. This turn of events has eventually affected the starter kit projects of the 24 parent’s beneficiaries. Because majority of the people in their community are jobless their livelihood projects (mostly snacks or food vending) are not earning or just making few money. In the ensuing months of the closure, beneficiaries stop their small businesses, some use up their inventory or money for personal needs. However there are a few who innovated and quickly converted their capitalization into a small sari-sari store which is still operating up to now. The Municipal Social Welfare Development Office responded to this problem by providing new capitalization to these parents of child workers. This time the parents did not engage on food or snacks vending but swine raising. In a meeting attended by DOLE and MSWD the agreement was that the DOLE will provide livelihood enhancement support on their swine raising project provided that they can successfully implement the livelihood project awarded by the MSWD.

Despite the slowdown in the economy, this does not deter the parents to go back to their old ways of putting their children to help them in coal sifting at the river banks. The good news is that their children are now in school and parents are finding alternative ways to earn income.

Public-Private PartnershipTowards a CL-Free BarangaySiloh

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

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