As COVID-19 cases in the Philippines continue to rise, attention to other issues may have been hindered. With each new case, community quarantines in various villages and towns in the country would continue. This has detrimental effects to children, women, and the LGBTQ+ community in advocating their equal role in Philippine society. However, Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its partners have found solutions to continue understanding and solving issues of child exploitation, gender-based violence, and discrimination of members of the LGBT+ community.
As children stay at home, they are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation from their guardians and from online perpetrators. To empower children to raise their voice in issues relating to their safety and protecting during the pandemic, TDH’s field office in Eastern Samar provided an online session to Youth Leaders and encouraged them to understand other children’s situation and well-being in their communities.
This gave the children the opportunity to express their feelings and voice out their opinions and suggestions on how the COVID 19 response affects them. Terre des Hommes will use this information to advise local governments on how to protect children during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Concerns of gender issues that are caused and aggravated by the pandemic is also present. As a response, the Girls Advocacy Alliance project had taken various measures with the support of Terre des Hommes’ partner organizations such as SPARK! and Bidlisiw Foundation.
SPARK! led a series of webinars for the public to discuss impacts of the pandemic in the lives of women and the members of the LGBTQ+ community.
These webinars that involved other organizations and embassies, has resulted in an increase of awareness and understanding of challenges related to gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. They had encouraged community members in reporting their experiences.
Furthermore, the webinars influenced and encouraged legislature and local government units to properly and fairly implement laws and create better policies that ensure the rights and welfare of women and the LGBTQ+ community during and after the pandemic.
The power of webinars during the pandemic cannot be denied. As gender-based violence and child trafficking continue to be a persisting issue in the Philippines, Terre des Hommes’ partners also continue to find innovative ways to combat it. Bidlisiw Foundation facilitated training-orientation to various companies to improve their understanding of gender-based violence and Magna Carta of Women.
There were a total of 22 companies and private organizations attended with 26 representatives during the webinar. One of the activities was the sharing of good practices of each company/organization. Tekton Enterprises shared their initiative to inform all employees about incidents of abuse and encourage them to report. An HR Staff of Travel Bee Hotel shared their company policies to prohibit minors to check-in if their companions are their parents. The companies were asked to develop a plan on how to integrate child protection and gender inclusiveness in their own policies.
These are just a few initiatives that Terre des Hommes and its partners are doing to fight against child exploitation and gender-based violence in the Philippines. As COVID-19 restrictions change, we are ready to find ways to protect those in need.
The Girls Advocacy Alliance is committed to fighting violence against girls and young women and increasing their economic participation in developing countries. Violence and economic exclusion are closely linked. Particularly due to child marriages, sexual violence, trafficking in women, and the worst forms of child labour, girls are dropping out en masse in secondary and vocational education. Their chances of ever getting a 'decent' job are minimal. And vice versa; without income and independence, they are more vulnerable to violence.