MANILA, Philippines – A few days ahead of Women’s Month beginning on Tuesday, March 1, youth groups from around the Philippines challenged political contenders in the 2022 elections to push for young women and girls’ rights in a 10-point electoral agenda.
The agenda, covering the “most pressing” issues concerning children, girls, and young women in the country, “aims to ensure that [their rights] will be at the forefront of politicians’ general plan of action,” the organizations said in a statement.
The 10-point set of demands covers issues on adequate standard of living, safe spaces, universal and holistic healthcare, sexual and reproductive health rights, quality education, political education and participation, and territorial justice.
The agenda was backed by at least 35 youth-led organizations such as Plan International and SheDecides Philippines, and over 240 children and youth.
They also launched a campaign called #HIJAlalan2022 urging the Philippines’ future leaders to prioritize young women’s leadership, freedom, and representation in the country’s national and local policy, program, and budget.
These are their demands:
- Institute comprehensive, age-appropriate, and culture-sensitive sexual and reproductive health education for all sexes and genders into the basic education curriculum
- Provide access to decent jobs and livelihood opportunities for all, especially for women, teenage parents, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and recent graduates finding difficulty accessing employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Improve disaster response by establishing safe and livable evacuation spaces in communities, and providing evacuees’ basic needs such as clean water, food, and personal hygiene kits
- Improve access to professional services, medicines, and facilities to cater to Filipinos’ physical, sexual, reproductive, mental, and emotional health needs – especially in rural areas
- Enhance family planning and parenthood education in communities, and increase access to free contraceptives to address teenage pregnancy and rapid population growth
- Update laws and strengthen programs for the prevention, detection, reporting, and responding to all forms of domestic abuse and violence
- Protect public and digital spaces from all forms of sex and gender-based violence, harassment, and discrimination
- Combat child labor and all forms of human exploitation
- Improve access to quality education, especially in remote rural communities
- Keep elections peaceful, and protect its legitimacy by preventing all forms of electoral fraud, including the exploitation of young people forced to pose as voters
The groups said that the agenda was crafted after a series of regional consultations conducted from January to early February.
“Itaas natin ang diskusyon tungkol sa karapatan ng mga batang babae sa lipunan. Hindi kami nabibigyan ng sapat na plataporma para ibahagi ang aming mga karanasan at opinyon. Kausapin natin ang mga batang babae sa ating mga bahay at komunidad. Pakinggan natin ang kanilang mga kuwento’t karanasan sa pang-araw-araw na buhay,” said Christine from the Girls Get Equal Campaign, whose last name was withheld.
(Let’s raise the discussion on girls’ rights. We [girls] are not given enough platforms to speak about our experiences and opinions. Let’s listen to the girls in our communities. Let’s hear their stories about their daily lives.)
Meanwhile, Shaina of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) Youth posed the question to candidates, “Kung hindi namin ira-raise ngayon itong mga issue na ‘to on girls’ rights, kailan pa?” (If we won’t raise these issues on girls’ rights, then when?)
“How long should we remain silent while children and girls’ rights are ignored?” added Shaina, whose last name was also withheld.
Other notable groups joining #HIJAlalan2022 include the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN), Youth Reporters, and Y-PEER Pilipinas.
The presidential candidates have yet to outline specific policy plans for girls and young women. While some like socialist labor leader Leody de Guzman and Vice President Leni Robredo have advocated for platforms relating to gender equality and non-discrimination, the protection of children and young girls is another set of complex issues the country’s future leaders must pay attention to.
Teenage pregnancy, while seeing a decline amid the pandemic, remains an issue because of inadequate comprehensive sexuality education, and the stigma in accessing sexual and reproductive health services and contraceptives.
In January 2022, the sector celebrated as the Philippines finally banned child marriage after a long battle by advocates. – Rappler.com