“We want to inspire children and young people to take part in building a safer community for children.” Oras Child Protection Advocates (OCPA) is collectively driven by this mission since 2018 in the Philippines.
OCPA is a core youth group composed of six young members between the ages of 16 and 18. It was formed by Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ field office in Samar province. Through the effort of Keo Libanan, the Municipal Population Officer, the municipal government has recognised the group to serve as children’s representative to the Local Government Units (LGU).
It took a series of in-school orientations for these children to realize and be aware of the rampant reality of child protection issues surrounding them. The rising cases in their own communities of child labour, teenage pregnancy, and sexual exploitation encouraged them to advocate for their own rights and protection, and to amplify the awareness of these issues to children and young people in the remotest schools and communities.
The LGU has immensely supported this initiative which opened doors for youth advocates to speak with parents and children about issues that concern child safety in their towns.
OCPA is now being entrusted by the LGU to implement their own activities such as summits and camps. They are now recognised by different youth organizations in Eastern Samar as resource speakers in the matters of child protection.
Moreover, through series of consultations and efforts of these advocates, a Boarding House Ordinance (first in the province) has been passed by legislators to protect the students who are living in boarding houses and apartments by putting up streetlights and enforcing strict rules on curfews, visitor policies, and regular parental monitoring from landlords. This ordinance has been replicated by other cities in the region.
In the effort to ensure the voice of children and youth are heard in their locality, the youth group has drafted a youth code to institutionalise children and youth’s involvement in local planning of programs and initiatives that are relevant for them. This ordinance is now at the level of a committee hearing in preparation of the first reading by the legislators.
With the LGU’s and TDHNL’s guidance, training, and equipping, these advocates have now started to build a safe and trustworthy environment for children and young people where they can share their experiences and even their struggles and traumas. They have already received reports from victims who are afraid and hesitant to tell adults and authorities about their situation. “These kinds of reports fuel us to work even harder to intensify our advocacies to stop and end these destructive and horrible acts to our generation”, they exclaimed.
“The OCPA core team is now in the works of inspiring and training new advocates to continue the work they have started, to leave a mark for the next generation, a mark they can follow and champion,” said Donabelle Abalo, TDHNL’s Project Manager in Samar. Core Team members are now responding to calls for proposals from different agencies and organisations to get resources to promote and address the issues that matter to them. They are devoted and ready to promote and raise awareness on child protection issues wherever and whenever. “It’s part of who we are now”, they said.
“We are privileged to be part of this cause, so we are taking responsibility to be part of the solution.” OCPA ended.