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PIA Press Release

Latest UN report backs up ABK Initiative's call vs child labor

By Jennifer C. Tilos

Dumaguete City (25 May) -- The United Nations latest report exposes the child labor phenomenon as a tough enemy and an unspeakable crime committed against children worldwide.

Violence, the UN Report declared, has no place in the lives of children. It undermines childhood, threatens the survival, well-being and future prospects of children across the globe and effectively denies them their childhood. The millions of children who are victims of violence each year are living proof that the world has failed to protect them.

Take for example the case of Imaya (not her real name), from Negros Oriental, who was six when she started cutting and planting sugarcane. The youngest of 11 children, Imaya helped her parents survive with P50 a day wage. Just like other children in the barangay, Imaya used machetes and other sharp knives to cut sugarcane, stripped the leaves off the stalks, fumigated sugarcane, strapped tanks on her back and applied herbicides with hand-held nozzle.

Imaya lost her finger, almost lost a foot with a machete and repeatedly had raw, blistered hands. She performed all these tasks for six to nine hours each day in the hot sun. When ABK Initiative came in the area, Imaya's life is transformed. She no longer spent her day in the field but in school. She is one of the top ten students in the class and dreams of becoming a teacher one day.

This was reported by World Vision, an NGO focusing on the needs of children based in the 1st district in the province.

Over 2 million children in the country are living desperate, unprotected lives as "invisible" workers engaged in six worst form of child labor. These children who insist poverty as culprit to premature adulthood are found wasted in pyrotechnics production, mining & quarrying, sugarcane plantations, deep-sea fishing, domestic work and commercial & sexual exploitation.

Considering all these alarming reports that affect the basic rights of children, a concerted initiative has been undertaken to respond to this immediate problem. Thus ABK Initiative was born, a child labor flagship project of lead-agency World Vision and its partners.

ABK is the acronym for "Pag-Aaral ng Bata para sa Kinabukasan" or Education for the Children's Future. Funding for ABK Initiative is provided by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) under cooperative agreement E-9-K-3-0055.

According to Kay Yeban-Maatubang, Communications Specialist of ABK Initiative, the program emphasizes education in support of the government's effort to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in various sectors within specific period in partnership with the Philippines Time Bound Program (PTBP). These sectors include deep-sea fishing, mining/quarrying, prostitution, pyrotechnics, sugarcane plantations, and domestic work.

World Vision Officer Maatubang said, the Department of Education in the Visayas region eventualized a radical approach called "open enrolment policy". The policy ends the chronic apathy in the school climate towards child workers who have quit school and decided to return at any time within the school year. Though it is true school attendance correlates with the family income, child workers rescued and enrolled thru ABK Initiative now have altered mindsets on importance of education and the negative effects of hazardous work to their well beings, Maatubang said.

The project has assisted more than 32, 000 children in the areas of National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Camarines Norte, Iloilo, Cebu, Davao and Compostela Valley, Negros Occidental and Oriental Negros.

At present the Philippines has placed no. 4 in UN Human Rights Council Election in the 17 May 2007 race for 14 seats in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In its report to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, the Philippine Mission to the United Nations said that Manila's fourth place finish demonstrates the international community's continued confidence in Manila's commitment to uphold, protect and promote human rights.

Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said the Philippines received 179 votes, or 43 more votes that it had during last year's elections. India topped the elections with 185 votes, followed by Indonesia and Madagascar with 182 votes each.

"With this fresh mandate, the Philippines has been given another opportunity to strengthen further its advocacy in key human rights areas," Romulo added. "This fresh mandate likewise underscores the success of our Foreign Service Posts in harnessing and sustaining global support for Philippine initiatives in the United Nations."

Secretary Romulo cited in particular the efforts of Ambassador Davide and Ambassador Enrique Manalo, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. (PIA/JCT) [top]

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