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Former child laborer advocates for child protection in her community

Exploitative child labor practices sacrifice the childhoods, health, and education of millions of children around the world.

October 2009



 A young boy builds triangle fireworks.
Like Joanne, this boy works in Pyrotechnic production, a thriving industry in Bulacan that employs children as young as 7.
Photo ©2007 G. Jeff Lamigo/World Vision

Once a child working in backyard pyrotechnics production in the Philippines, Joanne has become a known leader in her community. She speaks out against exploitative child labor ─ a practice that threatens the safety of millions of children around the world and denies them education that leads to a better life.

No choice

At age 12, Joanne joined her family’s firecracker enterprise. Pyrotechnics production is a staple livelihood in Bulacan, Philippines.

Her parents used her meager earnings to pay for school fees. But work took its toll on her studies. She wasn’t able to reach her full potential because she was working and studying at the same time.

The work affected her health, too. She would sometimes become dizzy, most likely due to exposure to gun powder. She would often get colds.

Joanne didn’t know that her daily routine wasn’t normal. She felt she had no choice. “I was able to help my family, but at the same time, it felt wrong that my childhood was sacrificed.”

Child labor and education

Exploitative child labor steals away the youth and innocence of millions of children around the world, just like Joanne.

Poverty — both in the home and at a national level — is the major cause of child labor. The International Labor Organization points to a strong correlation between income levels and child labor across countries, with the poorest countries registering the highest rates of child labor.

However, this harmful practice is not only a consequence of poverty. It is also a cause. If children are prevented from going to school, they will remain illiterate. As adults, they will likely not find well-paying jobs, their own children may be forced to work, and the cycle will continue.

Child labor can also drive down the wages and working conditions of adult workers, making it more likely that children will need to work to supplement their family’s income.

The ABK Initiative

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Give monthly to help World Vision provide assistance to children affected by forced labor and other forms of exploitation.

In 2003, the ABK Initiative (also known in Filipino as Pag-Aaral ng Bata para sa Kinabukasa, or Education for the Children’s Future) — a partnership with World Vision and several other international development organizations — began in Joanne’s community. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (1), the ABK Initiative removed or prevented more than 31,000 children from engaging in the worst forms of child labor. Funding for the program was recently renewed by the Department of Labor.

Through ABK, Joanne’s parents became aware of the dangers of the tasks she was performing in their backyard business. They learned about child labor laws and a child’s right to education and leisure, and they were encouraged to stop sending their children to work. The school supplies that Joanne received from ABK lessened her family’s expenses.

The parents in Joanne’s community also organized to fight for children’s rights and help withdraw children engaged in hazardous work.

The training Joanne received through the ABK Initiative helped to shape her into a community leader. “I gained more confidence with myself. I was able to do things that I never imagined myself doing before, like speaking in front of many people,” she explains.

What can the United States do?

The United States continues to contribute to the fight against exploitative child labor. Recently introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the Child Protection Compact Act (H.R. 2737) would increase our support for countries fighting child slavery in their own backyards.

Many countries have passed laws to combat child labor and trafficking, but lack the means to enforce the laws and adequately protect children. The Child Protection Compact Act would help enforce anti-trafficking laws by providing technical assistance and training to several targeted countries that have shown the political will to fight human trafficking and exploitation but lack the resources, know-how, and capacity to follow-up with survivors.

“The Child Protection Compact Act will create a partnership between the U.S., countries that are trying to fight child slavery, and organizations like World Vision who continue to lead the fight,” explains Jesse Eaves, World Vision’s policy advisor for children in crisis. “This legislation adds to U.S. policies that combat exploitative child labor and trafficking and allows us all to work together to end slavery.”

From child laborer to community leader

Now 19 and in her third year in college at Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Joanne continues to promote children’s rights and help other youth engaged in child labor. As president of the Association of Concerned Youth and Students in Bulacan, one of her priorities is to help children still working in pyrotechnics production.


Joanne’s aspirations are simple ─ to finish school and help her family. But her passion remains the same ─ to speak out for children who are losing their childhood to exploitative labor.

1. Under Cooperative Agreement number E-9-K-3-0055K

Learn more

>> Learn more about World Vision’s work to combat child labor and what you can do to help.
>> See what goods are believed to be produced using exploitative child labor.

Two ways you can help

>> Call your representative to voice your support for the Child Protection Compact Act (HR 2737).
>> Become a Child Crisis Partner. For $20 a month, you can help World Vision provide critical assistance and support to children affected by forced labor and exploitation.

Forward to a friend

Learn more

Learn more about World Vision’s work to combat child labor and what you can do to help.

Two ways you can help


Call your representative to voice your support for the Child Protection Compact Act (HR 2737).
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Become a Child Crisis Partner. For $20 a month, you can help World Vision provide critical assistance and support to children affected by forced labor and exploitation.

 





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