Child-led solutions to problems related to children should be a focus of many organisations and governments. At times, children’s roles in their communities are ignored and the significance of their involvement is overlooked.
For the Down to Zero Alliance, Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its partners in the Philippines had been working closely with child clubs and advocates to form solutions to issues that hinder a child’s future. In Cebu province, sexual exploitation of children had been growing and it was further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic through online platforms.
“I hope we also know that we are not only voices. We are also bridges in letting others know that there is help that they can reach out to, even though there is still a culture of shame, a culture of silence. It is important for children and youth to know that they can be of help especially to the victims”, said Mariveles, a 15-year-old Youth Alliance Representative.
As a response, TdH NL and its consortium of partners (ECPAT, FORGE, Bidlisiw Foundation, and Children's Legal Bureau) had been implementing the Building Back Better programme to support children during and after the pandemic. As it concludes in May 2022, the child rights organisations ensured that children will continue advocating for their right to a safe environment.
Led by TdH NL, all organisations coordinated with their networks of child clubs and advocates, and organised a Children and Youth Solution Summit on World Children’s Day in November 2021. With nearly 60 children and youth attending from many different areas such as Cebu, Bohol, Bataan, and online, they were able to draft solutions and plan campaigns to increase awareness on sexual exploitation of children.
Through lobbying and advocacy, the solutions indicated by the children and youth in the summit will be presented to government officials at national and local level. As the Philippines completes its election cycle in June 2022, these child-led solutions will be given to them as soon as they officially take office.
“If our children and youth are abused and exploited, what country would we have in the future? Let the public understand that this is not a problem of technicalities but this is a problem that destroys life, destroys dreams”, said Mandy, a government official attending the summit.
The children and youth solution summit aimed to contribute to child and youth development by constructively involving them in learning and doing and being connected to positive adults and their peers. The purpose of this summit is to provide solutions at the children’s level on sexual exploitation of children in times of COVID-19. The plan of actions will then be lobbied in the communities after inputs from the panel of reactors have been noted and taken into consideration.