Children have the right to grow, survive, thrive, and fulfill their potential. But not every child is able to do so. A 2016 study, prepared by the International NGO Council on Violence against Children, reveals that there are still millions of children around the world whose rights are being trampled. The report shows that while certain measures have been put into place, children still bear the brunt of sexual violence, sacrificial killings and human trafficking.
Since 2010, the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) has engaged in promoting and protecting children’s rights through the Child Rights Teaching and Learning for and by Kids (ChildTALK).
“ChildTALK is aimed at training children to be aware of their rights, enabling them to freely participate in the promotion and protection of these rights. It targets children 12-17 years old from marginalized families so that they may be empowered not just to claim their own rights but also to empower other children in their communities to do the same,” says Maria Kristina R. Merginio, AHRC’s Program Officer for Adhikain Para sa Karapatang Pambata, the center’s children’s rights desk.
|ChildTALK aims to train children to be aware of their rights (Photo from AHRC)|
ChildTALK employs a mixed learning style to engage with children. “The first part of the program is the Basic Orientation Seminar where the children attend a 3-day seminar and workshop discussing different children’s rights,” Merginio says. To make the seminars interesting, group activities are interspersed with lectures. Through these activities, children learn about their rights and also tackle issues relevant to them like teen pregnancy and drug addiction. Last year, Merginio adds, the focus was on building a child-friendly cyberspace where the participants learned about “the proper use of the internet, online protection, and cyber etiquette.”
|ChildTALK employs a mixed learning style to engage with children (Photo from AHRC)|
AHRC believes in the benefits of shared knowledge so the second part of ChildTALK has the children strategizing for the next batch of participants. The idea, Merginio says, is for the children to be able to transfer what they learned to other children. “It is hoped that the children will gradually be able to organize themselves so that they can be the voice of children in their barangay. This way, a more substantive level of participation may be observed from the children who become the primary claimants of their inherent, indivisible, and interdependent human rights.”
AHRC partners with organizations and barangays to connect with the children. For the aforementioned cyberspace talk, AHRC linked up with UNICEF to do thematic trainings. Since ChildTALK’s inception, AHRC has trained 80 children from partner communities in Mandaluyong, Quezon City, Laguna, and Bicol.
|Atty. Veronica Yan of AHRC interacts with a child advocate in one of the sessions. (Photo from AHRC)|
To ensure the continuity of the program, AHRC reaches out to the communities at least once a year. Merginio, however, is quick to admit that it is hard to quantify the program’s impact on communities. “It would really need continuous monitoring and support from a dedicated non-government organization,” she says. Based on their observation, though, children in the program improve academically. The children also “gained the confidence to speak about their rights and share their knowledge about children’s rights even after the program.”
|Child advocates share their thoughts during one of the breakout sessions. (Photo from AHRC)|
“It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb that is very true for ChildTALK and AHRC. Aside from organizations and local government units, AHRC also drafts interns—law students who assist in the conduct of the program.
Moving forward, Merginio hopes that the seed that ChildTALK has sown will spread even further: “Whatever the program started will be sustained by the community and that the children will be able to participate in their barangays, especially in making decisions on matters that will affect them.”