The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down all of our lives. We cannot work if our work requires gathering of people.
We cannot work if our work requires travelling. We cannot work if our work requires physical contact. However, this did not stop Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its partners in the Philippines from supporting, protecting, and empowering children. The pandemic did not discourage our project and partner staff, but made them find innovative ways to spread awareness about gender equality and violence, and sexual exploitation.
In the central part of the Philippines, issues that concern children such as gender abuse in various communities are not often discussed. In response to this, Terre des Hommes’ partner through the Girl Advocacy Alliance (GAA) programme, Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) launched the Para sa Kabataan (For the Children) campaign in Cebu Province, a series of online sessions through Facebook Live and Zoom. "Para sa Kabataan is informative, educational, and entertaining as it is participatory and empowering”, said Noemi Truya-Abarientos, CLB’s Deputy Executive Director.
This online forum gives various audiences something to look forward to every week. It acts as an alternative educational venue for children and families for better child protection. It thus becomes enriching for the communities and the general public, while providing for an intimate discussion among its invited guests who are from different facets of life such as social workers and lawyers with radio and TV experiences.
In the north of the country, there is a prevalence of trafficking and prostitution due to the absence of strong laws against it and lack of local committees against trafficking.
In Olongapo City, Luzon, another TDH-NL partner through the GAA programme, Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT) took initiative by being persistent in following up with local government units through online platforms to initiate the passage of a Anti-Trafficking in Persons (ATIP) Ordinance. This would benefit survivors of trafficking in persons, and it would help set up services and programs for prevention of cases, protection of children, and prosecution of perpetrators.
As children and youth continue to stay at home, their physical and mental well-being is a concern. The more time they spend online, the higher the risks of them being exploited through online platforms. TDH’s partner organization through the Down to Zero programme, CLB facilitated Peer Support Groups to reach out to their peers online to share important information to each other.
This has resulted in sharing of information about matters that may affect youth in this time of the pandemic. They also provided reporting lines where they can report cases of abuse. Members became aware of child abuse and exploitation, especially online, and learned that they were increasing. With this, the members felt the need to help other children who should not be victims of abuse and exploitation by educating them about the danger of too much exposure to the internet.
“Children have rights, and it should be recognized!” said Charles Vergara, President of Gothong Peer Support Group.