About 150 children from various schools and non-government organizations chanted “Bata, bata may karapatan; bata, bata pahalagahan (Child, child, you have rights, child, child you should be protected,” as they marched with big smiles on their faces across Museo Pambata in Manila. These children gathered and voiced out the problems faced by Filipino children at “Una sa Lahat: Bata,” the first Children’s Rights Summit held by the EU Delegation to the Philippines, May 24.
The summit marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it featured a series of plenaries that focused on survival and protection, and participation and development. Issues were tackled creatively through songs, games, dances, and skits by children’s rights youth advocates from SOS Children’s Village and Save the Children.
“Importante para sa’kin malaman ng mga bata yung karapatan nila para maiwasan ang abuse, exploitation, at discrimination,” (It is important to me for children to know their rights to help them avoid abuse, exploitation, and discrimination) said Jerico Cabico, 16, a youth advocate from SOS Children’s Village. They do this by creating a learning environment that make the kids aware of household abuses but not going too far to traumatize them by the reenactments.
Marcuz Castro and Jeremy Romero, both 17, of Save the Children, used creative storytelling through the lens of Yolanda, an abused girl who suffered from early pregnancy and was deprived of education, to discuss and analyze the issues of corporal punishment, child labor, and welfare neglect.
The event culminated with the children learning about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the legal remedies afforded to them by the state.
At the summit, EU Delegation to the Philippines Minister Counsellor Mattias Lentz encouraged children to stand up for their rights and to become advocates of children’s rights in their families, schools and communities.
“What we hope to accomplish with the children’s summit is for every child to learn and understand what protections he or she is entitled to as a young member of society,” European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen added.
EU conceptualized the summit to cooperate with the government’s focus on social rights. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) identified the children sector as one of the nine basic sectors in the Philippines suffering from a higher poverty incidence than the general population. This is tied with the 4 million out-of-school children and youth tallied by the 2013 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), and the growing child labor force in the Philippines measured at 3.3 million back in 2011.
The summit was organised by the EU Delegation to the Philippines in partnership with Museo Pambata, non-government organisations including Save the Children and SOS Children’s Village, the embassies of Austria, Czech Republic, and Sweden, non-profit organization Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (CANVAS), Universal Robina Corp., Maynilad, and Filipino children’s book illustrators’ group Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK).