Starting ‘em young

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014


HOPE (not her real name), 7, was still on the street on a Friday night, selling roasted peanuts for P10 per pack to adults in a downtown bar.

It was already 11 in the evening and Hope should be at home, sleeping with her parents, but, she had to earn at least P200 before going home.

“Mani! Mani!” Hope shouted, trying to market her product so she can finally call it a night. She wears an orange t-shirt, skirt, and a mismatch pair of slippers. Alongside the medium-sized pail of peanuts he carries are salt shakers and small brown bags.

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Hope lives in Barangay 5-A, Bankerohan, Davao City. She is the second among four siblings. Her mother is a housewife. Their father left them last month after her mother caught him with another woman. She has no idea where her father is now.

Because of what happened, her ten-year-old Ate Joy had to drop out of school.

According to her, she volunteered to sell the peanuts. Her aunt, she said, cooks the peanuts in the morning.

During the interview, Hope already had P50. That means, she had to earn P150 more so she can go home. That’s small brown bags of peanuts packs more to sell.

“Kulang pa (Not enough yet),” Hope said as she counted her money she picked from her sling bag.

Asked if she’s already sleepy, she said, “Gamay (A little).”

Hope is just one of the 168 million child laborers around the globe, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) global child labor estimates that was released in September 2013.

The number of child laborers actually decreased by one-third since the year 2000 which recorded 246 million.

However, the ILO said the decrease does not signify that the 2016 target set by the international community for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, as a priority within the global fight for the eradication of all child labour, will not be met.

Children younger than 12 years, like Hope, selling products along the roads are a coming sight, street occupation, so to speak. They sell peanuts, flowers, or simply beg.

The children sell inexpensive items for a small profit-- all part of the informal economy.

Usually not captured by the research are the children on the street who are engaged in drug peddling, petty theft or other illegal activities.
On June 12, child advocates commemorate World Day against Child Labour.

The commemoration this year draws attention to the role of social protection in keeping children out of child labor and removing them from it.

“Social protection is both a human right and makes sound economic and social sense. Social protection enables access to education, health care and nutrition and plays a critical role in the fight against child labour,” the ILO said.

Poverty and shocks are recognized as the vital issues that drive children to work.

Children tend to push themselves to working in order to meet basic needs.
Exposure to shocks, resulting in loss of family income, can have a similar effect on household decisions.

“For example, economic shocks, such an adult member of the family losing his/her job, health-related shocks like a serious illness or an employment injury, and agriculture-related shocks, such as drought, flood and crop failure, can dramatically reduce household incomes and cause children to drop out of school and go to work to contribute to the family income,” the ILO said.

The story of Hope, inadvertently, fits in to what ILO wants to address presently.

Selling peanuts late at night deprives her, a breadwinner, of her childhood and that is harmful to her physical and mental development.

Aside from that, her security is at risk since she walks her way home from where she positions herself and sells her product.

The ILO estimates that more than five billion people – about 73 per cent of the world population – do not have access to adequate social protection.

With social protection, poor families will receive assistance to help them weather various shocks.

The ILO enumerates ways to help combating child labor— cash and in-kind transfer programmes, public employment programmes, social health protection, maternity benefits, social protection for people with disabilities and those who suffer from employment-related injuries or diseases, income security in old age, and unemployment protection.

“These instruments complement one another; cash benefits and services shall be well coordinated. There is no single social protection instrument for addressing child labor. A well-designed social security system will include a specific mix of interventions, designed to best fit the national needs,” the ILO said.

Hope dreams to become a teacher someday. But how can she be one if she continues to sell peanuts on streets?

The World Day against Child Labour promotes awareness and action to tackle child labor. Hope’s case deserves to be heard.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 05, 2014.

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