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PREDA NEWSLETTER September 1998

September 2, 1998 · 

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Dear Friends,

The Global March against child labor was one of the most effective educational exercises to raise the awareness of child exploitation in the work force. I joined marches in the Philippines where it began, with as many as 15,000 children, the PREDA Fair Trade staff and the social workers caring for children marched to the beat of bands and chants calling for an end to child labor. NO! NO! to Child Labor, Yes! Yes! to education ! went one of the slogans.

The Global March, Child Labor and Fair Trade

Former child workers rescued by social workers from Non- Government Organizations led the march in every country. There were marches organized worldwide and they attracted great media attention. I marched with them in Germany and Geneva all the way to the headquarters of the International Labor Organization, where the body was holding it’s annual conference. We marched with waving banners and placards, chanting as before and into the great hall we went, took over the stage and gave speeches calling for an end to child exploitation. We only hope that the ILO can now come up with strong measures against intolerable forms of child labor. Only intolerable child labor is to be banned, not the kind where children help their parents survive, or where children do odd jobs to help them go to school. The worst kind is where children work like adults and have no schooling or freedom and are badly treated. My first experience of child labor was not in factories or in the fields but on the streets of Olongapo City, Philippines. And ever since then I have fought this evil of making children work to support adults, especially though the work of being a prostituted child. One day on the streets of Olongapo I came face to face with the worst trade in the world. I was approached by a man who had mistaken me for a foreign tourist. He offered me a child for sex. “She is only thirteen and a virgin”, he said, “just for thirty dollars you can have her all night”. I was shocked, angered and outraged at the terrible suggestion. I then saw the little girl being held in a doorway across the road by a women who was clearly his accomplice. I threaten to call the police, but he just laughed and walked away taking the child to another hangout. This was my first experience of the horrors of child labor , the worst kind of all, child prostitution.

Many hundreds of thousand are held as sex slaves in brothels all over the world but perhaps most of all in South Asian countries like Thailand ,the Philippine and India, where the trade in child flesh is most rampant. Instead they were child laborers with brain damage from the lack of good food and would grow up uneducated swelling the ranks of the rural poor and providing the rich with cheap labor to work in their plantations or to sweat in the factories. Sporting goods factories, carpet weaving shops, brick factories, and hundreds of other sweat shops exploit children without any concern for their well-being. It was these experiences of such inhuman treatment of children that motivated me to start the PREDA Foundation and the PREDA Fair Trading project in 1974, five years after I first arrived in the Philippines. I could not stand by any longer wringing my hands and saying how terrible it was. I had to do something, however small it was to alleviate just a little of the misery and human suffering of children and young people. I came to realize that alternatives had to be found. The poor must have prosperity in their villages on their farms. Through the PREDA Fair Trade products a project began that would eliminate intolerable child labor in many homes and villages. We financed and trained small village based projects, helped cooperatives group more mangoes at less cost and traded with Fair Trade agencies who bring the people’s product to the customers who want to support a more just world, respect for human dignity, children’s and women’s rights. That’s how we can end poverty and child labor, give fair wages to the poor for their labor and it will the adults who will be in the fields and the children will be in school.

Every Blessing ,

Fr. Shay Cullen and the PREDA Children and Staff

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