Scavenging is one of the worst forms of child labor

In preparation for the Short Study Tour of ACCESS, I've been reading about Child Labor, starting from the perspective of international laws.

One thing I learned is that there is a difference between working children and child labor. Working children as told by UNICEF, is positive, as it provides venues an opportunities for children to develop and prepare themselves to become productive members of the society. For example, a child who enrolls himself in program of McDonals to be kiddie crew, or a child who is in charge of washing the dishes at lunch time this summer, can not be considered child labor.

On the other hand, child labor is a "work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity ad that is harmful to physical and mental development" (ILO). Examples of these are the saddening situation of children not going to school because they are sugarcane (Luzon) or pineapple (Mindanao) plantation workers, children forced to make firecrackers and fireworks (Bulacan), children pimped, trafficked and forced to prostitution and so on and so fort... The list really goes on, especially in a Third World Country, like the Philippines.

The second thing I learned... I was surprised upon reading about the worst forms of child labor. As stated in Article 3 of the ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labor ratified in 1999, the worst forms of child labor are:
  1. all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery
  2. use, procure or offering of child for prostitution and pornography production
  3. use, procure or offering of children for illicit activities (ex. drug-trafficking)
  4. work that harms health, safety or morals of children
I've read the fourth one a couple of times and tried to analyze scavenging. Scavenging harms health because the children and youth are working in an unhealthy environment - a mountain of garbage. This works makes them more prone to bronchial diseases such as asthma, tuberculosis, etc. Scavenging also harms safety of the children and youth for everyday, they are in risk of falling debris by riding the garbage trucks in order to get ahead of others for recyclable garbage.

An often accident in Smoky Mountain is that people got hit by toilet bowls at their back, got wounded by broken tiles or aluminum wires poking out or by syringes. Scavenging harms morals because of the situation of "getting ahead" of others, wherein quarrels arises just for the sake of getting that aluminum which would could be sold for P5.

So far, our program for the youth is helping them in building their organization (SSDN-Youth) through workshop and trainings for leadership and internationalism. This is in view, that people from NGO are not the ones who should pull the people out of poverty, but they themselves, through their empowerment.

["They don't care about Us" danced by SSDN-Youth. Photo by Tito-san.
and Yes! We should ask "Does the government care?"]
Another part of our program is cultural training and providing venues (study tours, ACCESS anniversary event) for the youth to show their talents in singing, dancing, theater and arts as their tool for telling more people about their situation. Their songs are about their life in Smoky Mountain, their drama and plays are about "how a beautiful Barrio Mandaragat became the present dumpsite, infamously known as Smoky Mountain". I believe there is much to be done, to fight against child labor. But one step I, FIT and ACCESS could make is showing more of this harsh reality through our short study tour on May 2 - 7, 2011. With fingers crossed, I hope it goes well.

[Study tour of VOA last June. Photo by Eri Asada.]
Last thoughts... As younger brothers and sisters, would you let child labor or scavenging of youth and children in Smoky Mountain continue until future? Please think about it too.

Blogs related to this post, please visit --->

ACCESS Japan blog (New Post Up!):
ACCESS FIT (Support team to Smoky Mountain):

Via socialworkring


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