A child becomes the pride and joy of parents from the minute he or she is born. Children should be nurtured and given every bit of love, care and support it needs. If a child is provided with proper sustenance, receives good education and a loving family, he or she can grow up to be a responsible member of the society.

The family is the most important social group in society. It’s also the most important influence in a child’s life. The family plays an essential role in a child’s education, in providing physical and emotional needs, and in giving moral guidance. Unfortunately, a lot of children are denied of the good things in life, like a loving family, good education, proper nutrition and worst is freedom to just be a child.

Last Friday, June 12 marked the 122nd Anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence with this year’s theme “Kalayaan 2020: Tungo sa Bansang Malaya, Nagtutulungan, at Ligtas (Freedom 2020: Towards a Free, United, and Safe Nation) and this very important event in the country’s history coincides with the celebration of the World Day Against Child Labor (WDACL) which is an international day to raise awareness and prompt action to stop child labor in all of its forms.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the WDACL in 2002 and since then, the day has focused attention on the prevalence of child labor throughout the world and the action and efforts essential to eliminating it.

According to author and poet Oscar Wilde that the best way to make children good is to make them happy, is very true, as they are the future of our world. But in this day and age, there is a growing concern about the number of children, who instead of being in schools or at play, are being forced to work so they can survive. Instead of toys to play with, they have been given a hammer and chisel to make a living.

This years’ celebration of WDACL focuses on the impact of crisis on child labor. The COVID-19 health pandemic and the resulting economic and labor market shock are having a huge impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Unfortunately, children are often the first to suffer. The crisis can push millions of vulnerable children into child labor.

Already, based on the data from the ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) there are an estimated 152 million children in child labor, 72 million of which are in hazardous work. These children are now at even greater risk of facing circumstances that are even more difficult and working longer hours.

In the country there are initiatives aligned with the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, which targets to reduce the cases of child labor by 30 percent or 630,000 from the estimated 2.1 million child laborers nationwide by 2022. In the Cordilleras, close to 42,000 children are child laborers or children at risk to child labor.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) being the lead agency in the for the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL) works to transform the lives of child laborers, their families, and communities, towards their sense of self-worth, empowerment and development. The PPACL works towards the prevention and progressive elimination of child labor through protection, withdrawal, healing and reintegration of child workers into a caring society.

The institutionalized National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) towards better coordination of its members and partners at all level has issued policies and guidelines issued to institutionalize the national, regional, provincial and municipal/city child labor committees. The Inter-agency arrangements made on the identification, profiling, rescue, referral and management of child laborers in the informal economy.

The HELP ME Convergence Program Against Child Labor is  pursuant to and aligned with Republic Act No. 9231 (An Act Providing For The Elimination Of The Worst Forms Of Child Labor And Affording Stronger Protection For The Working Child, Amending For This Purpose Republic Act No. 7610, As Amended, Otherwise Known As The “Special Protection Of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation And Discrimination Act”), Republic Act No. 9208 (“Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003”), and other related laws which declare the policy of the State to provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development including child labor and its worst forms.

The HELP ME Convergence Program will engage several government agencies to deliver services to child laborers and their families to combat child labor. These government agencies include the DOLE, DSWD, DepEd, DOH, DILG, DA, DOJ, TESDA, NEDA, CWC, PIA and NCIP.

END/Patrick Rillorta