Myla (not her real name), a girl from Caligo, Aklan, was pregnant by the time she was 10 years old. She was a victim of incest.
According to Clarita Padilla, Executive Director of Engenderrights, 15% of sexual encounters among children below 15 years old is forced. Rape also accounts for 5% of the first sexual encounters of young adults between the ages of 15 to 19 years old.
Read: Every 53 minutes, a Filipino woman or child is raped
“Despite the existence of many laws that seek to promote and protect children’s rights in all settings, Many Filipino children continue to be exploited, abused and neglected,” read a press release from the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD).
In a bid to thrust children’s rights into the spotlight during election time, PLCPD recently launched its Voice for Children, Vote for Change Campaign. The campaign hopes to persuade those seeking government offices to consider children’s rights in their platforms, and urge voters to choose leaders who will prioritize the interests of children.
The issues highlighted by PLCPD include:
Nutrition in the first 1,000 days and promotion of exclusive breastfeeding
Proper nutrition starting from the womb to the child’s second birthday is critical in a child’s physical and cognitive development.
Protection of children from armed conflict
PLCPD calls on the next administration and Congress to prioritize building a peaceful environment for children, increasing the protection of children from exploitation by armed groups, and providing space for children’s participation in peace-building.
Children in emergencies
“Disasters and emergency situations exacerbate the vulnerability of children. While the 16th Congress passed a bill providing for immediate relief of children during emergencies, children also need to be given the opportunity to participate in Disaster Risk and Reduction Management.
PLCPD likewise asserted that too many Filipino children suffer under abusive forms of discipline that cause physical and psychological harm. Candidates are urged to ensure that children are raised in safe and nurturing environments.
Next: Children propose the Children’s Agenda
Vote for Children
A similar initiative, Vote for Children, was also launched by World Vision following a gathering of child leaders, which resulted in children’s agenda. The agenda lists of issues faced by children as raised by children during the gathering. These are the issues raised by the children:
The children stressed their need to have proper nutrition especially in poverty-stricken malnourished children, as well as access to clean drinking water and a safe environment.
There is a need to strengthen the fights against drug abuse and eradicate groups that promote it.
Child abuse and exploitation
The agenda also calls for the strict implementation and monitoring of laws that will protect children from all forms of abuse and exploitation, such as bullying, child trafficking, and child labor.
The children cited the current lack of schools. According to them, more schools and well-trained educators are needed for conducive learning.
Sexual education in schools must be strictly implemented as a provision of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law. Sexual education will help avoid teen pregnancies that disrupt education.
Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
Disaster preparedness in disaster-prone areas must be strengthened to reduce vulnerabilities and achieve zero casualties during disasters. Early warning systems must be installed in strategic locations. Resilient evacuation centers should also be constructed in each barangay to free schools from being converted into evacuation sites, and ensure continuous education despite calamities.
The children also asked for job and livelihood opportunities for their parents, as well as for out-of-school-youths.
Next: The plight of Filipino youth today
The Filipino youth today
According to a fact sheet by UNICEF, 4 out of 10 Filipinos are children below 18 years old, and many of them are suffering.
According to Janelle Raba, Advocacy Officer of PLCPD, one out of 4 Filipinos live below the poverty line, and one out of three Filipino children live in poverty.
These children, Raba said, have little to no access to education, sanitation, and food. One out of ten Filipino children have no access to potable water.
One out of ten kids experience involuntary hunger on a regular basis.
Children are used in armed conflicts as human shields, porters, combatants, and messengers.
“Despite the fact that children comprise 42% of the Philippine population, their issues and aspirations are often overlooked and seldom tackled in the electoral discourse,” World Vision said.
“Minors can’t vote. Those with the power to vote should consider children’s rights in choosing who to vote,” said Danica Magtubo, a peer educator of Y-PEER, a 700-strong network of organizations worldwide working to educate the youth as initiated by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
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