April 15, 2016
Despite the existence of many laws that seek to promote and protect children’s rights in all settings, many Filipino children continue to be exploited, abused and neglected. Many children still suffer from undernutrition and poor access to education, health services, safe water and sanitation which affect their physical and cognitive development with long-term consequences on their productivity and national development.
CHILDREN’S RIGHTS. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Philippines ratified in 1990, recognizes the fundamental rights of children to survival, development, protection, and participation.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution also recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and vows to “promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being.”
Nutrition in first 1,000 days. The period between 0 to 5 years, especially the first 1,000 days starting from the nine months in the mother’s womb up to the child’s second birthday, is critical in the child’s physical and cognitive development.
Existing nutrition interventions, e.g. school feeding, often miss this crucial window of opportunity to ensure optimal development of children. More efforts are also needed to encourage and promote exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months.
Children in situations of armed conflict. Studies have shown that displacement of whole communities and destruction of schools and homes due to war cause profound physical and psychological effects on children, ranging from fear to low self-esteem, from depression to aggressive behavior.
The next administration and Congress should prioritize building a peaceful environment for children, increase protection for children from exploitation by armed groups, and provide space for meaningful participation of children in peace-building.
Children in emergencies. Disasters and emergency situations exacerbate the vulnerability of children. While the 16th Congress passed a bill providing for immediate relief of children during emergencies, children also need to be given the opportunity to participate in DRRM.
Positive discipline. Many Filipino children are subjected to physical and psychological harm in the name of discipline. In this day and age, there is a better alternative – positive discipline – which embraces a rights-based approach to raising our children, ending violence against children, and building a safer and nurturing environment for them.
THE CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE. Children are our country’s future. Protecting and investing in children’s development benefit the nation in the long run. The next government should make children’s needs and interest a top priority, building a world where children can achieve their fullest potential.