TWO NON-PROFIT groups hope to answer that question with a new project on children’s participation in governance.
Saligan, a developmental organization that focuses on legal work in communities, partnered with Save the Children for a project named “Kasama ang mga Bata sa Pamamahala: A Legal Empowerment Project of Children Aimed at Recognizing Children’s Participation Rights in Governance.
The project was met by members of civil society organizations (CSO) last July 3 during a turnover of a proposed ordinance that hopes to highlight the role of children in governance.
The core of this project, said Saligan Mindanao branch coordinator Atty. Francesca Sarenas, is to help kids find space for children in governance and to institutionalize their participation. The project hopes to be able to address participation needs that other existing mechanisms can’t address.
For instance, according to Carla Canarias, advocacy officer of the Tambayan Center Childrens Right’s Inc. the mention of children’s participation in the current Children’s Welfare Code is limited and institutionalized in schools; this does not cover children in the barangay levels and those in sectors whose needs are not fairly focused on.
The city’s welfare code on children is said to cover a comprehensive children and family support system in the city; it is written in the code that “it should be the policy of the local government to uphold the rights of children—for survival, protection, participation and development.”
She mentioned that this project will not be an alternative to SK, which at the moment is not very inclusive (and only involves youth 18-24 years of age).
Saligan’s project, with the help of the enthusiastic members of CSOs on children, hopes to be able to stand on its own focusing on concerns that the SK might not be able to address.
Moses Halog, 17, said there is a need to put focus on the views and ideas of children. He said that it is difficult to make themselves and their inputs noticed in decision-making. Halog is an active student leader when he was in high school and now an accountancy freshman in Ateneo de Davao University.
Halog said that he wants to be able to contribute to the solving the problem of having children on the street.
“They should be in school and not begging,” he said “But there are so many things that prevent them from staying on the right path.”
Cenjen Roble, 13, president of Nakamata, an alliance of adolescent girls in the streets, said that she is passionate about finding ways to keep her fellow girls—especially those who live in squatter areas—to stay away from prostitution. “I want them to have their own aspirations and to chase their dreams of a better life,” she said.
Halog and Roble both agree that children’s inputs should be strongly considered in decision-making by adults and the leaders in the city. Halog said that children can bring to the table new ideas and clearer views on issues that concern them the most.
The ordinance, the main output of this project by Saligan and its partner CSOs envisions to “ensure that the right of children to participate in governance shall be respected and protected with the Davao City Federation Assembly as the main institutional mechanism.”
This will lead to having Barangay Children’s Associations (BCAs)–mass based organizations–in each barangay in the city as a building block; representatives in this association will participate in an assembly atop the tier.
At the topmost level is a proposed Davao City Children’s Council—the policy governing body that will have elected district representatives.
Through this project, Saligan sees children to be proactive in furthering causes and projects that cover issues “close to their heart.” This includes issues on child labor, poverty, and children in conflict with the law. This project will also emphasize the interconnectedness of the family unit and how it affects children and the way they think.
Sarenas said that this will give children a sense of responsibility, trusting their own decisions for their own future.
Councilors met the project with equal enthusiasm, saying that the participation of children is needed because the issues that are being tackled by the community from a day to day basis still greatly affect children.
Councilor Leo Avila said in an interview that Saligan’s project has its own potential. But it should be clear in mechanism first—like how will children’s participation manifest exactly to avoid redundancy with the city’s welfare code for children.
He also said that there will always be a need to include the views of children in policy making—inputs from them are as equally valuable as those from adults who generally have more control in conceptualizing projects. He added that if we consider the inputs of the young ones, “we will be able to make programs that are more responsive to their needs.”
The importance of considering children in decision making is emphasized by how adults can’t exactly speak for their children and their needs.
Councilor Leah Librado-Yap, chair of the city council committee on women, children and family relations, said while this will still go through some consultations, as to how this will fare as a legislative measure, she sees potential in the project as long as it will be in children’s best interest.
At the end of the day, their participation—and the adults’ welcoming ears for their inputs—won’t be just for them. It will for their children and the next generation.