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New hope for sugarcane farm workers in the Philippines

Monday, 05 Oct 2015

“If not for the help of microfinance loans, I wouldn’t have been able to start my piggery and support the schooling of my three children. It wasn’t much, but it helped and challenged me to be more productive in life,” says 44-year old Rita.

She and her husband Ganny used to work in the sugarcane farms earning very little for a day’s labour under the scorching heat of the sun. But when Ganny got sick from the strenuous hauling and loading of sugarcane to the trucks, finding additional ways to earn money fell into Rita’s hands. She tried selling sweet potato candy to ease the family’s financial burden but it still wasn’t enough. The meagre income forced Rita to bring her two eldest children to work in the sugarcane farms.

As a mother, it was not easy for Rita to see her children working instead of going to school. But for a family in dire need, more hands working means food on the table. Child labour not only denies children access to education, but it also robs them of their childhood and the opportunity of a better life.

Rita, along with other parents in their neighbourhood, attended a financial literacy training facilitated by the VisionFund MFI in the Philippines, through which they were taught the value of saving and financial management. The training also showed various options through which one could grow and expand income sources, and microfinance was provided to support small business ventures.

“At first I was hesitant to get a loan but I was encouraged to give it a try. And I don’t regret it,” says Rita. With the loan, she purchased a pig, and was ecstatic to find out that it was already pregnant when they bought it. Two months after, it gave birth to five healthy piglets, and months after, many more. She now has more than 20 pigs.

And so, with her thriving business in place, Rita is now more confident that she can send her children to school.

Her smile is bright and full of hope as she looks lovingly at her children. “I always remind them to study hard because it’s the only thing I can give them. I want them to know that even if life is difficult, I will strive hard so they can finish school and have a better life,” she says.

Rita’s eldest, Christine, is now in college taking up Accounting while Charlie and Lester, both in high school, are optimistic that a brighter and sweeter future is within their reach.

 

According to the 2011 NSO Survey on Children, there are 3.03 million child labourers in the Philippines, from which 2.99 million are working in hazardous conditions.

VisionFund’s microfinance institution in the Philippines works with World Vision and the ABK3 LEAP project that supports Livelihoods, Education, Advocacy & Protection to reduce child labour in sugarcane areas.