As the nation celebrates the 25th National Children’s Month this November, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) joins the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) in its continued advocacy to fight the worst forms of child labor in the country through the campaign #1MBatangMalaya (one million free children).

Launched earlier this year, the campaign aims to raise public awareness on the problem of child labor and to encourage actions against it. It features a convergence of different programs and services by the members of the NCLC, which includes different national government agencies (NGAs) such as the DSWD, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Department of Education (DepEd), among others; non-government organizations (NGOs); and, civil society organizations (CSOs).

The campaign carries the theme, “Sa Kalinga Nagsisimula ang #1MilyongBatangMalaya,” which highlights the importance of providing care to children who are involved in the worst forms of child labor through inter-agency efforts and interventions.

During the kick-off program for the National Children’s Month celebration at the DSWD Central Office yesterday, the Department invited Julius Cainglet, the Chairperson of the Knowledge Management and Advocacy Subcommittee of the NCLC, to present the current situation of child laborers in the Philippines and the initiatives of the council in its fight against child labor.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Ballesteros, Social Welfare Officer IV from the Department’s Social Technology Bureau (STB), shared updates on the Strategic Helpdesks for Information, Education, Livelihood and other Developmental Interventions (SHIELD) project of the DSWD.

SHIELD is a model of intervention developed by DSWD-STB, which aims to help eliminate child labor, particularly its worst forms by strengthening the fight against it all the way down to the barangay and community levels.

The project’s specific objectives include establishing an operational Local Child Labor Local Registration System and strengthening system and local mechanisms for convergence of services for child laborers and their families through the establishment of barangay-based help desks.

The DSWD has started the pilot implementation of the project in Regions CALABARZON, V, and VIII this year. These regions have been identified as high-risk areas for deep-sea fishing, mining, quarrying, agriculture, and major sources of child domestic workers.

The kick-off program also included special numbers from the Department’s Day Care children and signing of the commitment board for the campaign against child labor, which was led by DSWD Officer-in-Charge Emmanuel A. Leyco.

“There is no time to lose when it comes to our collective efforts to combat the widespread problem of child labor in the Philippines.  There are already ongoing efforts to help parents to secure gainful and sustainable employment, and these efforts should be complemented with programs to help their children. Because of widespread and deep-seated poverty in the Philippines, so many children are forced to forego their childhood and become workers in factories, mines, plantations so they can earn pittance wages they can give to their parents. We should all work together to bring an end to child labor and help children recover their childhood,” said OIC Leyco.

The DSWD executive said that Filipinos must unite with the national government and other concerned agencies in efforts to respond directly to poverty.

“We must provide appropriate interventions to put a stop to this social ill of making children work for the family’s needs. We must immediately and urgently rally to respond to this concern because as the problem is unabated,  children continue to be violated a thousandfold, especially those child laborers engaged in backbreaking and hazardous work,” he said.

Other activities of the NCLC that are lined-up during the celebration of the National Children’s Month include  a contest on Sabayang Pagbigkas, and a music festival. ###