Spotlight on Share a Child Movement, Philippines:
Convincing Stakeholders to End Child Domestic Labor
October 2005. Share a Child Movement (SCM), a Winrock CIRCLE partner, has been working to raise awareness and action on the importance of education for all children, along the way involving a wide array of actors in Cebu, Philippines.

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The main target beneficiaries of the SCM/CIRCLE project are child domestic workers: the “invisible” children – as young as 5 years old – who disappear into the houses of the families that hire their services. The demand for this type of child work stems in part from broad social acceptance of child domestic work, where common attitudes hold that these children are safe because their basic needs are provided for. Yet, the reality for these girls and boys is usually one of long work hours, no chance to go to school, low or non-existent pay, exploitative treatment, lack of privacy, and risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. On the supply side, parents – most often uneducated themselves, and often unemployed – frequently urge their daughters and sons to work as domestic laborers in response to extreme poverty. Children themselves may “choose” to work because of their heavy sense of family responsibility, or because they are dissatisfied at schools to which they came late or not enough, unable to keep up with peers who went to pre-school and attended school consistently.

Through the CIRCLE project, SCM is working to get these out-of-school children and youth back into school. This means not only helping them financially to pay the relatively low costs of public education, but also to help them adjust to the routine of school hours and assignments. The strategy – coordinated with the Department of Education for maximum effect – involves tutoring sessions to prepare children for the Philippine Educational Placement Tests (PEPT) that determine their academic level, and helps with actual school enrollment. It also includes non-formal sessions to assist older children who are no longer interested in formal schooling with certificate or equivalency programs. SCM has already enrolled 89 children in formal education and is assisting 11 others in a non-formal program.

A particular innovation of SCM’s CIRCLE project has been its pairing of these immediate actions with concentrated efforts to gather stakeholder support for long-term change.

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SCM started at the barangay (village) level. While providing an orientation to its project, SCM encountered village leaders hesitant to lend support to CIRCLE, which challenged local norms. The NGO then looked for an alternate community structure to aid in identifying target children and families. The opportunity came in Barangay Inayawan, which had a “Back to School” program led by the Gender and Development (GAD) focal person. Through discussions and orientation sessions co-led by GAD and SCM/CIRCLE, the groups raised the awareness of officials about the serious risks faced by child domestic workers and victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Community volunteers then motivated the parents of child workers and guided them in enrolling their children in school, providing the children with initial supplies. SCM and the GAD unit also promoted efforts to boost the “Back to School” program more widely to more schools and more villages. As a result, the government not only helped to identify children for the SCM project, but also promised to formulate procedures for re-entry into schools of out-of-school children and to assist SCM – through a cadre of community volunteers – in monitoring the readmitted children.

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SCM/CIRCLE staff also coordinates with the administrators of the target schools. Noting that child domestic workers may be studying in the city’s night high schools, SCM encouraged the principals in the those schools to register their support for the project and to motivate these child laborers to develop themselves through education and seek more gainful employment in the future. The principals have instructed their teachers to assess the situations of working students and forward their reports to SCM for scrutiny. The cooperation of the school officials and teachers is vital for the long-term success of feedback systems and school-based quick action teams.

Thus concerted networking has helped to ensure community ownership, set up monitoring mechanisms, mobilize resources, and encourage policy reforms for the sustainable reduction of child labor in Cebu.