According to official estimates, over 250,000 child labourers are to be found in the Philippines’ Negros-Panay region, a predominantly rural province that relies heavily on sugarcane agriculture.
In the Negros Occidental province, the effect of a feudal system has meant families that do not own land struggle to breach economic barriers that keep them politically excluded and in dire poverty.
In this context, children – some as young as seven – are sent to work to help supplement family income. On sugarcane plantations, rice and corn farms, and whilst fishing or mining, they are exposed to hazardous chemicals and pesticides, endure long working hours and receive little rest or leisure. The work inevitably disrupts the children’s schooling and places immense pressure on their health and safety.
Quidan Kaisahan is an organisation that works to change societal perceptions in the Negros region, where many child labourers’ parents were themselves working children.
The organisation was established in 1996 with the aim of working with rural communities and local government to organise and empower community members and promote sustainable livelihoods by equipping and supporting community groups.
Quidan Kaisahan’s focus on ensuring stronger and more inclusive village-level governance has been at the core of the sustainability of its programmes. Quidan Kaisahan works in 80 villages in the Negros Occidental region, reaching thousands of beneficiaries.
To date, more than 11,500 at-risk children and those working in hazardous conditions have been supported. In addition, some 985 children have been removed from hazardous labour situations.
Almost 3,000 children who were not in education have acquired functional literacy through Quidan Kaisahan’s educational programmes, and more than 100 children have successfully completed their high school equivalency. A further 674 have returned to formal school.
Quidan Kaisahan was also a runner-up in the 2012 Stars Impact Awards.
Photos: Kat Palasi/Stars Foundation