Manila, Philippines – A group of children and child rights advocates campaigning for a “children-centered” election on Valentine’s day urge voters to have a heart and think of the future of their children, younger siblings, nieces and nephews as they choose their candidates in the coming elections.
“Just like any other citizen, we deserve better program and policies from the government, but more often than not, our issues take a back seat in governance. Lamentably because we are not voters, politicians tend to ignore our issues,” says John Aries, 16 years old, Project Team Leader of the Children Talk to Children (C2C) about the UN CRC.
“But we are the most affected by poverty, hunger, disaster and conflict. We are the worst victims of poor governance,” adds Aries.
The C2C Project, a joint initiative of four child-led organizations in Metro Manila and Cavite, aims to support children in preparing and submitting their own report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and develop children’s skills in engaging the government and the general public in raising and addressing children’s issues. The C2C Project is being supported by Save the Children.
Plan International, an international humanitarian, child-centered development organization working in 69 countries worldwide, is disappointed that sexual abuse still has a very high prevalence in the Philippines. Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) show that the second most common case handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Resources (DSWD) are sexually abused children (around 30% of all cases). The most common sexual abuse is rape, followed by incest and acts of lasciviousness. Rape victims are predominantly female (97.7% in 2009 and 90.5% in 2010). Incest cases make up some 33% of sexual abuse in 2009 and even 37.5% in 2010.
According to Plan, this disturbing data shows that we have much more work to do besides celebrating the National Awareness Week on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (NAWCSAE) under Presidential Proclamation 731 issued in February 1991 and the Anti-Rape Law of 1997.
“Clearly, children’s rights are not recognized,” says Carin van der Hor, Country Director of Plan International in the Philippines. “In a study conducted by Plan last year, it was revealed that new forms of commercial sexual exploitation have emerged that are often difficult to track. Parents of children as young as three years old initiate their children to child pornography. These developments indicate that child protection and anti-child pornography laws must have sufficient implementation budgets to enable law enforcers to update themselves with new technologies.”
Last November, more than 200 children from different child-led groups nationwide gathered for the National Children’s Forum in Manila and came up with their “elections wish-list”.
The children participants, aged 10-17, strongly expressed that voters must vote for candidates who will provide the following: a playground where they can safely play; resources to support children’s program; streetlights to avoid accidents and crimes; access to comprehensive health services that includes counseling and right and age-appropriate information on reproductive health; program for parents on children’s rights, positive discipline and children labor; programs that will help them manage their fears and stress caused by disasters and conflicts; financial support to families of children who cannot send their children to school; jobs and livelihood for parents so they can support their children’s schooling; and alternative learning and back to school programs for out-of-school children and youth.
importantly, these children stressed that voters must choose candidates who
will champion laws that will uphold and protect the rights of children from physical
punishment, malnutrition, recruitment to armed groups, and imprisonment at the
age of 12.
“All people in the government, especially those that we are electing in the May 2013 elections, are accountable to promote and uphold children’s rights and welfare. We should choose our leaders well,” says Aries.
Bata Muna is a nationwide campaign aimed at advancing children’s issues into the heart of electoral discussions in the 2013 National Elections. It is jointly organized by Save the Children, SM-ZOTO, Plan International, ChildFund, Asia ACTs, WomanHealth Philippines, Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), and Children Talk to Children (C2C) about the UN CRC Project.
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