Hours of child labor
In the world, this year
In the Philippines, street children are common. You will find them begging on the streets playing on the pity of local folks and foreigners alike. The misconception is that these children come from nearby squatter areas just trying to come up with a few pesos to buy their food, very few of them actually do.
These children aged between 4 to 12 years old are part of a criminal syndicate. The syndicate kidnaps them or the parents sell them to the “recruiters”. They are forced to beg for alms or commit crimes and turnover their daily loot to their “owners”.
While in your car, stopped at a traffic light in the Commercial Business District of Manila, someone might knock at your window. It’s a sick looking woman, dirty, sometimes barefoot, carrying a malnourished baby. Your heart will be filled with pity and you will give her a couple of pesos. Who can turn down a woman with a hungry baby?
But most Filipinos have become hardened to this scenario – because they know that the baby is not really the woman’s child and that the money they give her will just be forwarded to the syndicate. So they don’t give the poor woman anything so as not to encourage the syndicate’s practice… or they will give her food instead.
A little boy with a jar of water will suddenly wash the windshield of your car while you’re parked and then ask you for money. He’s around 6 years old yet you can see the guile in his eyes. This is a child who has lost his innocence. He will show anger if you don’t pay him for washing your windshield, even if you didn’t ask for it. All he is concerned about is meeting his quota for the day. If he doesn’t collect the amount of money expected from him, he will be beaten. If he doesn’t earn enough, the child will steal what he can to give something to the syndicate at the end of the day.
If a child under the custody of the syndicate continues to miss his quota, he will intentionally be given a disability. Who can resist giving money to a begging disabled child? Maybe then, he will meet his quota and earn his keep.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development is powerless to stop these syndicates. They can only give warnings to the public, advising people not to give alms to street children, but the practice continues. Some people will attempt to report this to the local police. If action was taken due to the reports of the citizens, it doesn’t show. The landscape hasn’t changed. The street children are still there.
It’s a sad day when your desire to help those who are in need is the very reason for the thriving business of child slavery.
But it is not only syndicates who are enslaving the children. Sometimes, it’s the parents themselves who use their little ones to earn some money. Poverty pushes them to do these things. They’ve run out of options.
Not only are the innocence of these children lost when they take to the streets, they are on their way to a life of crime. Children learn at this very early age that they should take what they need at whatever cost, for their survival. There is a quote that says, “Give me a child for seven years and I will give you the man.” What kind of adults will these children turn into? Where is the hope? Who will intervene on their behalf?
There are thousands of stories like this in developing countries. In the provinces, children as young as 6 years old work side by side with their parents in the fields. The parents don’t think that they’re doing anything wrong. It is normal, sometimes even expected.
Child slavery in big industries such as agriculture and manufacturing are ongoing issues and they are slowly being resolved by governments and organizations fighting child labor. Stories such as the ones mentioned above are common scenarios in developing countries where there are large sections of the population who are still deep in poverty.
There are groups helping to stop these practices but it is not enough. Until such time as the law on child labor is strictly implemented, the plight of these children will continue… and there can be little hope that their lives will change for the better.
Learn how you can help stop Child Slavery and read more environmental stories at The World Counts: Stories.
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