Laura Vicuna Foundation (LVF):
Children are Their Own Best Advocates
October 2004. LVF believes that children need to be empowered to understand their rights and become pro-active citizens. With this in mind, LVF convened a series of forums for almost 80 local children at-risk of, or working in the sugar plantations of Negros Occidental, Philippines. As a result of these events, children were able to educate themselves on their rights in four major categories: survival, development, protection, and participation.

From the children’s perspective, they identified the following problematic areas for which an urgent response is needed from all sectors of their community:

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Children are talking to other children about their rights. They speak of education and the right to be protected from work that is harmful to their well-being. Children are affirming their right to know, and participate in decisions affecting their lives.
For their survival: The sardine factory nearby is experiencing increasing cases of asthma, respiratory problems, and gastro-intestinal sickness due to the polluted air.

For their development: Some teachers are frequently absent from school and use out-dated teaching techniques. The lack of quality education is discouraging students.

For their protection: Illegal drug proliferation is increasing cases of violence and abuse against children. Some children have become addicts.

For their participation: Children feel that opportunities for participation are minimal.

They have not only identified these problems, but also formulated resolutions enjoining concerned bodies to act on these issues. Regarding their observation about teachers, the children asked the Department of Education to provide teachers with training on contemporary teaching methodologies as well as continuing education seminars.

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At the conclusion of the forums, the children decided to organize their own association called Children’s Association for our Rights and Empowerment (CARE). During the Children’s Month Celebration in October 2004, the City Vice-Mayor of Victorias City administered the oath of commitment to CARE, witnessed by some 300 children. Two months after, CARE submitted their call to action and resolutions to the Vice-Mayor of Victorias City.

As a result, the city legislative council decided to investigate the extent of the problem caused by the sardine factory and ordered the regular monitoring of the factory’s compliance with the sanitary code. A clean-up campaign was also launched in the factory’s immediate environs, particularly the drainage system. The council took note as well of the drug problem and conducted a series of drug awareness and education activities in the community.

Members of CARE undergo regular formation and leadership skills upgrading. They act as big brothers/big sisters to fellow children, encouraging them to persist in their studies while helping them cope with home issues. CARE’s youth council recently organized a sports festival as a preventive strategy against the growing drug use by the youth. They also regularly assist LVF in conducting child rights awareness sessions.

LVF’s particular approach to working with a child-centered and holistic perspective shows their commitment to sustainability. It underscores the importance of child participation; the promotion of child rights should empower the very children who are to realize these rights.