Cecilia and Visayan Forum believe that everyone should take part in the struggle to end child labour and trafficking. They fight all over the Philippines and they make sure those in power can’t turn a blind eye to children being bought and sold like commodities.
• Children and adults in the poorest parts of the Philippines, where the majority of trafficking victims come from, get education and support. Mothers in particular, are given knowledge to be able to protect their children.
• At ports and airports, Visayan Forum cooperates with staff, police, and other authorities, to uncover trafficking and rescue the victims.
• Rescue operations are conducted to free children who are being exploited in brothels or as maids in people’s homes.
• There are helplines open around the clock for children and adults who need help or want to report suspected cases of trafficking or slave labour.
• Girls who have been rescued are given protection at halfway houses all over the country, help to be reunited with their families, and new confidence and faith in the future. Girls who cannot return home are given a home and an education at Cecilia’s safe house.
• Children under 14, who are not allowed to work by law in the Philippines, have their schooling paid for. Older girls get vocational training and work experience, and sometimes financial help. Former child labourers are encouraged to start local child rights clubs, where they play and have fun, but also raise awareness of trafficking, to keep their friends safe.
• ›To win the war against trafficking, we need better laws that protect children and make it easier to end traffickers to jail‹, says Cecilia. She influences politicians in the Philippines and around the world, to make them change their laws and rules.
Cecilia’s safe house
Some girls can’t be reunited with their families, so they move to Cecilia’s safe house, Center of Hope, at a secret address in Manila. These girls have often had death threats from the people they are running away from. They are supported by house parents, social workers, psychologists, teachers and security guards. “It has to feel like a real home for them. They gain protection and faith in the future here,” says Cecilia.
The land for the safe house was bought using a donation from J.K. Rowling, the author of the famous Harry Potter books. There are plans to build a school and a gym here.
Text: Carmilla Floyd
Photos: Kim Naylor