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Children take over the Senate, voice out their needs and concerns, call to action

World Children’s Day commemoration provides platforms for Filipino children to speak out about their concerns; advocate to legislators to respond to their needs

©UNICEF Philippines/2017/AC Dimatatac
Senator Francis Pangilinan and Senator Risa Hontiveros receive the Declaration of Commitment from indigenous children from Davao Oriental and internatlly-displaced from the Marawi conflict, in celebration of World Children's Day. Twenty-seven children marginalised and vulnerable sectors called on the government, parents and community leaders to pay attention to their concerns and issues regarding children's rights, welfare and development.

MANILA, 23 November 2017 – A large portion of Filipino children are yet to benefit from the fast economic growth achieved by the Philippines as a middle income country. Efforts to lift Filipinos from poverty has been slow and uneven, particularly compared to other countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. In commemoration of World Children’s Day, children and young people today took over the Senate for an hour to voice their concerns and demand their rights. Child speakers advocated to legislators and policymakers to respond to the issues affecting their lives.

In the Philippines, child poverty has persisted at 31.4 per cent nationally and 48.2 per cent in Mindanao. This translates into one in every three children being stricken by poverty nationally and nearly one in two in Mindanao. High incidences of persistent poverty has caused multiple deprivations and opened up chasms of disparity among a large number of children.

For example, three in every ten Filipino children are stunted (short for their age) due to severe malnutrition and eight out of ten children have experienced physical, emotional and sexual violence including online sexual exploitation. Services for adolescents’ physical, mental and reproductive health are extremely limited while access to basic social services are critically scarce for children living in poverty, at risk and in indigenous and marginalized communities. Children remain vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters and displacement that disrupt their life, peaceful growth and learning.

©UNICEF Philippines/2017/AC Dimatatac
In celebration of World Children's Day 2017, 27 children from vulnerable and marginalised communities took over the Senate Session Hall to call on the government to invest in and better their concerns and issues regarding children's rights, welfare and development across the country. This year's "Senate Takeover" was supported by UNICEF Philippines and the Child Rights Network.

Thirty two children from all three island groups of the Philippines participated in: ‘For Every Child, A Voice; A Children’s Assembly’ in a Senate takeover session and in Museo Pambata (Children’s Museum).  Supported by UNICEF and the Child Rights Network (CRN), the event provides a platform for children to voice their concerns and share individual experiences.

Four young speakers nominated by their peers passionately spoke about sexual exploitation and abuse of children; lack of access to social services with special focus on children from indigenous communities; physical and humiliating punishment; teenage pregnancy and adolescent reproductive health. The children represented a number of special needs groups: urban and rural poor, children with disabilities, indigenous children, and children affected by disasters, conflict, and displacement. The subjects they spoke on were chosen by the child participants from a long list of key issues affecting their lives. 

“I want to talk about bullying because when we stayed in Malabang Evacuation Centre, we got bullied for being an IDP (internally-displaced person). It hurts every time we get bullied. But I believe every child should have the right to live in peace and in a safe environment,” says Airah, 13, a child displaced as a result of the Marawi conflict.

“The World Children’s Day commemorated globally and the National Children’s Month in the Philippines send strong messages to take stock on how we adults treat our young. Progress and prosperity means little when children suffer due to persistent poverty and preventable ills,” said UNICEF Representative Lotta Sylwander in her closing remarks after listening to speakers at the Children’s Assembly. “Today, we listen to children speak powerfully about their plight. We must acknowledge these and more challenges are faced by Filipino children. We must pledge our utmost attention and urgent action to children in creating a better, safer, healthier and brighter life for every child.”

©UNICEF Philippines/2017/AC Dimatatac
UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander, Child Rights Network Convenor Romeo Dongeto, Council for the Welfare of Children Executive Director Mitch Cajayon-Uy, and National Youth Commission Chief-of-Staff Patricia Lopez join children from across the country, coming from various marginalised and vulnerable sectors. In celebration of World Children's Day 2017, they called on the government, parents and community leaders to pay attention to their concerns and issues regarding children's rights, welfare and development.

“The children should be at the heart of every law, hence the critical importance of giving them voice to speak out. We adults must be able to support them by engaging, educating and encouraging them to seize the platforms available for them to fully participate in decision making processes that will shape their future. CRN harnesses the potential of children and youth and strives to fill the gap to make every child's thought matter especially on policy advocacy where lasting positive change can be achieved,” Child Rights Network Convenor Romeo Dongeto said.

“I want to use my voice in youth empowerment because I believe that children are the hope of our next generation. And as youth we are the ones who know what we need and what we want,” says Jophet, age 16, from Roxas City. Jophet spoke about discrimination against children from internally-displaced communities.

Honourable Senators Risa Hontiveros, Grace Poe and Francis Pangilinan responded to the concerns raised by children in their speech at the Senate takeover children’s session.

Member of the House of Representative Hon Sarah Jane Elago, Executive Director of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy, and Patricia Mae Lopez, Chief of Staff Office of the Chairperson and CEO, National Youth Council responded to the issues and concerns raised by child speakers in the Children’s Assembly.

Young participants of the Children’s Assembly read out a Declaration of Commitment to ask for the participation of the adult, the government and other organizations to support their rights and prioritize their concerns.

 

 
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