For the 19th year, the nation is marking National Children’s Month with a reminder from child welfare authorities that children have a basic right to participate in all undertakings that concern them. This year’s theme focuses on the need to strengthen local bodies: “Local Council for the Protection of Children para sa Bright Child: Pakilusin, Palakasin, Pagtulungan Natin!”
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the Philippines is a signatory, includes four specific provisions on children’s participation. Articles 12 to 15 of the convention stipulate that children’s rights include freedom of expression and of thought, conscience and religion. A child has the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. There is also the right to express views freely in all matters affecting the child, with appreciation of the views depending on the child’s age and maturity.
Studies conducted by the Council for the Welfare of Children, through the National Committee for Child and Youth Participation, showed that promoting children’s involvement in matters that concern them improved relations within the family, in school, and in communities. Participation also boosted children’s self-confidence and interest in becoming achievers.
October, the month dedicated to children, is also a time to review measures to fight child abuse in all its forms. Across the country, many children are victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and child labor. Many are forced into abusive situations by their own parents. Children are used by insurgent and bandit groups for various purposes, even as combatants.
With the juvenile law exempting children up to 18 years old from criminal prosecution, drug dealers, carjackers and other crime groups are increasingly employing teenagers. When apprehended, the teens are turned over to social welfare personnel, who eventually return the children to the same families and communities that fostered their criminal behavior. Such children can benefit from immersion in a foster family, but social welfare officials have admitted that the country’s foster care culture is weak. Juvenile rehabilitation centers are also woefully inadequate.
The task of promoting the welfare of children is daunting, but sustained efforts have produced some progress in the past years. Like any major challenge, every little step counts. – Philippine Star Editorial, October 17, 2011