via Save the Children
The children have spoken. They want pro-children candidates who will include recommendations of children in their campaign platforms for next year’s election. This was announced in the National Children’s Forum attended by 240 children and youth from 43 child-led organizations nationwide last November 17 at the Amoranto Theater in Quezon City.
The event, themed “Mahalaga kami, Unahin Kami! (We are important, prioritize us!)”, is part of the children’s celebration of the 23rd Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), which was being observed on November 20. The forum was organized by the Children Talk to Children About the UN CRC (C2C) Project which is being supported by the Samahan ng Mamamayan-Zone One Tondo, Inc. (ZOTO) and Save the Children.
“The children are asking for candidates of the Liberal Party (LP) and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to prioritize children’s concerns, to refocus their loyalty to children and not to certain personalities. The children want LP to mean Let’s Prioritize the children while UNA for UNAhin ang mga bata (Prioritize children),” explains Minerva Cabiles, Child Rights Governance Adviser of Save the Children.
Putting the children on top of the development agenda
Among the children’s recommendations for the government and political aspirants next year include the immediate passage of the Bill Promoting Positive and Non-Violent Forms Discipline or the Anti-Corporal Punishment Bill and the Reproductive Health Bill that ensure provision of age appropriate reproductive health information and services for children. They also suggested the full implementation of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act and to stop all efforts in amending the law to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old.
In addition, the children recommend the effective and full implementation of laws against child abuse, trafficking, pornography, labor and bullying. They also recommend putting in place corresponding mechanisms such as local councils for the protection of children, child protection committees in schools,inter-agency coordination and support programs such as job opportunities for families and alternative learning system among others.
Children’s organizations are also calling on the government to allocate higher budget for children, strengthening the Sangguniang Kabataan and other mechanisms for children’s meaningful participation in governance, developing child-friendly infrastructures and safe places for children in the communities, and accessible community-based health programs including programmatic intervention on malnutrition. The children also made special recommendations such as special protection measures for children with disabilities, children involved in armed conflict and children in situations of disasters and emergencies.
“The National Children’s Forum has determined what Filipino children think and feel about their situation. The next best thing for the Philippines to do right now is to consider the recommendations of the children and carry out more effective policies and programs for children right away,” says Cabiles.
Violations, unmet rights of children piling up
“The Philippines is making significant progress in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, poverty, armed conflict, and deficiencies in domestic legislation pose serious challenges in improving the lives of children,” says Anna Lindenfors, Country Director of Save the Children in the Philippines.
“Almost half of the population in the Philippines are children. With a population growth rate of nearly 2% per year, not enough resources are made available to ensure their rights are realized,” she adds.
There are roughly 4 million Filipino children working, and human trafficking is a major problem. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child points out the weakness in legislation, as the minimum age of sexual consent is not clearly established in domestic legislation and the Revised Penal Code (Republic Act No. 3815) imposes maximum penalties for sexual offences when the victim is under 12 years of age, but imposes lower penalties for sexual offences against minors over 12 years of age.
Armed conflict continues to affect children. Children, sometimes as young as 11 years old, were recruited by armed rebel groups to serve as combatants, spies, guards, cooks or medics. Millions of children and their families have also been displaced by armed conflict in Mindanao.
More so, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is alarmed over the increasing reports of cases of child abuse and neglect and the notable deficiencies in domestic legislation as regards to penalizing all forms of abuse, neglect and mistreatment, including sexual abuse.
“These are only a few of the numerous violations against the rights of children. These violations continue to pile up everyday despite 23 years into the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The people from the government as well as aspirants in the 2013 elections should do more for the Filipino children. They should put the children at the center of their programs and platforms of governance,” says Lindenfors.
About Save the Children
Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organization for children. We work in 120 countries. We save children’s lives; we fight for their rights; we help them fulfill their potential.
We work together, with our partners, to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.
We have over two million supporters worldwide and raised 1.6 billion dollars last year to reach more children than ever before. In 2011, Save the Children directly reached over 700,000 Filipino children with its programs in health, nutrition, education, protection and child rights, also in times of humanitarian crises.
More information is available here: www.savethechildren.net