Social welfare dept launches SHIELD to help end child labor

MANILA, -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will pilot test its Strategic Helpdesks for Information, Education, Livelihood and other Developmental Interventions (SHIELD) program to help combat child labor in the country.

SHIELD will be tested beginning this year in the Calabarzon, Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions, where a high number of children are found working in deep-sea fishing, mining, quarrying and agriculture, DSWD Social Technology Bureau director Thelsa Biolena said Thursday during the launch of initiatives targeting to decrease child laborers by 1 million by 2025, held at the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) in Quezon City.

"The SHIELD project aims to strengthen the capacity of local government units (LGUs) in the prevention and elimination of the worst forms of child labor," Biolena said.

Under SHIELD, the DSWD will help LGUs establish a local child labor registration system that will identify child laborers in the community and monitor their cases; and a barangay (village) help desk that will offer services for child laborers and their families, as well as facilitate rescue operations when necessary.

Project SHIELD will be implemented in partnership with the LGUs, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the departments of labor, education and interior, Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Biolena noted that poverty is the main reason why families make their children work.

Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod meanwhile said that certain economic policies and labor practices drive parents to make their children work, among them contractualization, minimum wage laws, and such practices as the "pakyawan system ", under which a worker is paid after he or she completes a short-term project.

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, in a message delivered by DSWD Protective Service Bureau director Alicia Bonoan, said that even though various sectors have been campaigning against child labor for decades, the number of child workers continues to rise.

"Many work in palm plantations, in the mining industry, as unpaid labor for sweatshops and family and community-based backyard industries," Taguiwalo said.

A 2011 survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that some 5.492 million children aged 5-17 years are already working, 54.5 percent of whom are working in a hazardous work environment.

The DSWD Listahanan database meanwhile showed that 85,570 child laborers have been found in the agriculture sector, and more have been found in the construction, manufacturing, deep-sea fishing, domestic work, and mining sectors.

The DSWD chief added that anti-child labor laws could be used to analyze the conditions of child laborers, such as Republic Act 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").

"This problem on child labor continues as this is anchored on poverty. As long as the number of poor families increases, the number of children forced to work to augment their families' meager incomes will also increase. It is our duty to protect these children, and show that the state cares for their welfare," Taguiwalo said.

Aside from SHIELD, the DSWD also has the Family Development Session Module on Child Labor as another set of interventions. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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