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Youth-Adult Shared Leadership for Change: Erman and Faye's Fight Against Child Exploitation

June 15th, 2023

The journey of Erman and Faye, members of the RPACT (R. Papa Against Child Trafficking), a youth led organisation in the Philippines. We supported this group as part of our project CONEC (Creating a Safer Online Environment for Every Child) which aims to strengthen systems of protection for child victims and at those risk of OCSE.

school children for change
School volunteers to fight against online child sexual exploitation

It was just another day in our small community. Small children run around, play, and laughter fills our streets.  While I was in our home, I saw a group of people exchanging small packages, whispering in hushed tones. I recognized the packets they were holding. I believe I was witnessing a drug deal right in front of me, but it seems normal for everybody else in our home.

This experience made me realise how problematic our community is. How unsafe it is for children like me to stay here. How my friends and I are exposed to substance abuse and the effects of poverty that drives it. That's when I heard about RPACT (R. Papa Against Child Trafficking), a youth-led organisation in our school that is working to combat child trafficking and other child rights violations in our community

I decided to join RPACT and was amazed by the passion and dedication of its members. I invited Faye, my friend who was already a well-known youth advocate in our community to join too. With the help of our school principal, we started a partnership that would change our community for the better.

Together, we launched a campaign on Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children (OSAEC) and other child rights violations that were rampant in our community. We knew that the only way to make a real difference was to work together with both young people and adults to reach as many students as possible and address the issues head-on.

Our information drives and campaigns were conducted through room-to-room and community education sessions, and we were proud of the changes we were seeing in our community. We initiated meaningful activities such as extracurricular events for children, information drives, and training for students and teachers.

Thanks to the support of Project CONEC and our school, we were able to bring the reporting platform closer to the students through the OSAEC help desk managed by RPACT, where students can report child abuse and OSAEC concerns anonymously.

Soon we were seeing significant behavioural changes in the students. Students who had been hesitant to speak up before are now approaching us without hesitation to report or seek support on concerns about child rights violations.

From about 10 members before, today, we are already counting on no less than a hundred school members volunteering for the campaign.  We were able to reach more students and present solutions to divert them from the community culture of substance abuse, online commercial sexual exploitation, and vices.

As Faye said, our motivation was clear: we wanted to make sure that children had a place to go if they needed support and needed to report any unwanted experiences. And her and the other members’ drive and passion were contagious.

Our partnership with the school administration was a perfect example of how young people can effectively help the school reach our peers and address child rights violations experienced by us.

I know there is still a long way to go, but we are making a difference. We are making a difference for every child in our community.

Erman and Faye are youth members of RPACT (R. Papa Against Child Trafficking), a student organisation supported by Terre des Hommes Netherlands in the Philippines to stop online sexual exploitation (OCSE). Currently, they are part of Project CONEC (Creating a Safer Online Environment for Every Child) which aims to strengthen systems of protection for child victims and at risk of OCSE and is being implemented by ECPAT Philippines, Bidlisiw Foundation, and Philippine Against Child Trafficking (PACT). They were instrumental in reaching 32,087 children and community members through various education sessions and advocacy campaigns conducted in 4 Provinces in Luzon and Visayas in the Philippines.

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