Davao group to highlight campaign vs. trafficking

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 Oct) – We will march against trafficking and other forms of abuses.

That’s the message that Talikala, a Davao-based organization that looks into the plight of abused women and chilren, wants to embolden this month.

They will bring this message to the streets on October to send a message to the community: that a child should be in school instead of working in harsh conditions.

Talikala executive director Jeanette Ampog said that they want to continue to strengthen this advocacy. Their desire to be heard is reflected in the way they changed pace—literally. Last year the same organization held a children’s walk.

This year’s march against trafficking and other forms of abuses will bring together an expected 200-strong kids in Rizal Park on October 24. “These kids will come from Barangays 76-A, Sasa, Mintal, and Leon Garcia. The march will carry the theme that speaks to the children: You can help stop trafficking and other forms of abuse,” Ampog said.

An alliance of kids that looks into the situations of their fellows joins Talikala in this movement. Nerly Altillero, leader of the Children Against Child Trafficking in Barangay Sasa, asserted that underaged kids shouldn’t be working. “They should be in school,” she said. The 17-year-old girl has seen children trafficked in her community.

Nerly has been witness to various forms of trafficking; she said that she’s affected by this in the most banal way: her young brother works as an umbrella boy.

An umbrella boy is one of those many kids who carry big umbrellas on the street, shielding pedestrians from the strong downpour when it rains. They get paid two to five pesos every time they assist a person walk from a building to the nearest area where there’s transportation.

In Kilometer 11, Barangay Sasa, she said that kids can be seen there by the shores, picking up scraps of metal to sell when the tide is low.

Somewhere down the ports, there are also young boys who push carts with heavy items. She said that they are coerced to work and receive scandalously meager coins as payment because their families are poor.

A potential solution to these is to give scholarship to these kids and to provide good jobs for their parents. “It’s them who should be working and not their kids,” she said in vernacular.

According to Ampog, more than half of the city’s population (of about 1.5 million) are children; 70 percent of these kids get to go to school, while the rest can’t afford education. Instead, they are seen to be working when they shouldn’t be. Some push carts, others sell spices in wet markets. There are also those who carry heavy bags and luggage, while there are also many who work as umbrella boys.

In 2014 alone, 61 cases of child trafficking have been reported. Children trafficked were brought to Samal Island, Mati, Isulan, Tacurong, Kapalong, and Panabo. The kids involved in these cases have been rescued and are undergoing counseling and other medical services.

“We want people to be able to spot trafficking in various forms,” Ampog said. “They should be vigilant in reporting these recruiters to the authorities.”

She said that taking action for advocacy requires the efforts of the public and the leaders to become concerned citizens. “We want children to be protected not just on this day of our march,” she said. “Children could be trafficked and abused all year round, that’s why we want to protect them.”

Kids as young as seven years old are already working when they shouldn’t be—and they do so much work in harsh and extreme conditions. “They are deprived of their chances to play and to learn in school. That is why we should make them aware too that what they’re doing is wrong,” Ampog added.

Child abuse can come in many forms, and this can even start in the household. She reminded parents that discipline doesn’t have to involve the use of an “iron fist.”

Instead of harsh punishments, Ampog encouraged parents to instead hone good values into their children through moral support, spoken word, and love.