Kaisahan is a Filipino word for solidarity.
And it’s the idea that inspired our founding partners 20 years ago.
Quidan Kaisahan was established by a group of former Department of Agrarian Reform employees.
In 1996, they left their steady government employment to follow an alternative development approach – one that united and empowered people and government.
In the communities, they saw the people’s struggles. Struggles against exploitative wages in the dominant sugarcane industry. The strain of debt to unregulated money leaders. And farmers working hard every day on land that wasn’t their own.
But more they also saw more than that. They saw the potential and the power of these communities. Their willingness to work hard for the change they desired.
And so Quidan Kaisahan was born. They began with the first program Community Empowerment and Good Governance acting as facilitators of community-led initiatives in Toboso.
Building up communities
From the very beginning, our work has focused on bridging the gap between citizens and state. Where there are strong communities, we believe there will be more participation in local governance.
We work directly with community-based organizations, running consultation workshops and training. At the same time, the program works with local government and paves the way to open and cooperative participatory governance.
This combined state and citizen approach is the keystone to our work and has led the way to significant collaboration and citizen-participation across the municipals that we work.
Our work in Community Empowerment and Good Governance has expanded over the years to cover more than 75 barangays (villages) in Candoni, Hinigaran, Murcia, Toboso and Sipalay.
No child left behind
Through continuous consultation with the communities, the issue of children working in the sugarcane, fishery and charcoal industries across Negros Occidental become overwhelmingly apparent. 15 years ago, our work extended its advocacies to child education and protection.
Our team has worked tirelessly to spread the message of the importance of education. It has been a challenge keeping children out of work in communities where many members were child laborers themselves.
Our Child Education and Protection program supports the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) and Drop Out Reduction Programs (DORP). We facilitate training for new community volunteers to deliver the ALS education program in alternative classrooms in their communities. These classrooms are often community halls or volunteer’s homes in some of the most remote parts of Negros.
Since 2004, child laborer rates have declined from 8% to 6% but our work continues to ensure zero tolerance for child labor, exploitation and abuse.
A holistic approach
Working side-by-side with communities, we can see that while the poor may lack financial resources they are never helpless. When mobilized, educated and empowered they can purse their own development.
By listening to the community, we heard their ambitions to build independent livelihood and additional income for their families. And so, the Sustainable Livelihood program was created. This provides new business feasibility testing, technical skills training and microfinance options.
To date, our Sustainable Livelihoods program has supported members of community-based organizations in more than 43 barangays, affecting more than 2200 households who have reported vital increases in their household incomes as a result.
Looking to the future…
This year, 14 former child laborers and Alternative Learning System graduates will pursue their college education. These students will be future teachers, agriculturists, business professionals and leaders in Negros.
These scholars represent communities who have shifted their perception on child labor, families that are supporting the long-term benefits of education and children who have created the future they visioned.
To continue our work, we rely on the commitment of our staff, the drive of the communities and the generosity of our donors.