Amid an extended lockdown yet again in Metro Manila and nearby urban areas, a national plan to resolve the burgeoning problem on the situation of street children has been launched.
This policy milestone coincides with the celebration of the International Day of Children in Street situations, or commonly known as street children (CiSS), which latest estimated say could be somewhere around 370,000.
The virtual ceremony held April 12 was led by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and its multisectoral partners from all over the country.
CWC is responsible for coordinating the implementation and enforcement of laws for children, as well as formulating, monitoring, and evaluating the policies and programs, making sure that every child fully enjoys their rights.
The first of a four-part animation series on the plight of CiSS was also launched during the celebration. The video animation, which aims to amplify what it it really means to CiSS really mean and how we can all help, is a project of the Iloilo-based CiSS group LifeBank Foundation.
Pandemic to worsen CiSS condition
There is no official recent government data yet counting the total number of CiSS in the country. But a 2019 survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations and the LifeBank Foundation placed current estimates at least 369,000.
These are children in street situations within the age group of 0 to 17 years old.
Study shows that these children are vulnerable to have vices and health issues, accidents, arrests, and may experience physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual violence.
Common sentiment during this morning’s celebration calling for #AccessForStreetChildren, common sentiment was that the on going pandemic that resulted to further economic stagnation could result to the ballooning of number of CiSS and worsen the conditions of CiSS
The group, however, is hopeful that the newly launched Philippine National Multi-Sectoral Plan for CiSS for 2021 to 2025 could help alleviate the condition of the CiSS.
The plan, which is first in the country, was approved in October 2020 by the Board of the Council for the Welfare of Children after two years of drafting.
CWC’s Lee Aguila presented the plan and its purpose to holistically address the needs and concerns of CiSS using a child-rights approach. It also aims to strengthen multi-sectoral cooperation among various duty-bearers.
The intended outcomes of the plan are the following.
- Children in street situations are free from discrimination and stigmatization as reflected in laws and policies.
This outcome encompasses an information campaign on the Supreme Court jurisprudence to decriminalize status offenses. Creative and cultural program development for street children is encouraged, while developing guidelines to destigmatize them in public spaces.
- Children in street situations are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation, and able to access justice when harmed or in conflict with the law.
Birth registration of street children to secure and recognize their legal identity is filed under this outcome, as well as strengthening child protection policies and mechanisms, alongside ensuring their access to justice systems.
- Children in street situations are able to access and benefit from essential services crucial for reaching their full potential.
This promotes a better quality and standard of living for street children, which is inclusive of access to health care, education, and rehabilitation services.
- Children in street situations are able to access and benefit from specialized services and opportunities that respond to their needs and aspirations.
Research to update the information and statistics of street children is prioritized, while providing accessible, practical, and alternative care services and measures for them.
Brighter tomorrow for CiSS
Girly Bacus also shared her story of inspiration. She was 6 when her family—parents and five siblings, were adopted by Bahay Tuluyan from the streets of Malate. She became a junior educator at 9 and is now a teacher at Aurora A. Quezon Elementary School.
“Kapag nagkakaroon ng boses sa pamamagitan ninyo, mga taong para sa bata, nabu-bull’s eye ‘yong problema na dapat sagutin,” Bacus said.
Faye Fabalanon of UNICEF says “Guided by the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child), we encourage everyone as duty-bearers to support the initiatives of the government, especially ng CWC at ng LGUs natin, and all our partners from different sectoral groups, especially in budgeting and implementing the Philippine Multi-Sectoral Plan for Children in Street Situations.”
To access the comprehensive presentations from the webinar, visit bit.ly/2021IDSCPresentations.
About the Author
Tricia Allyson Salvador is a Communication student from the University of Santo Tomas and currently an intern of SubSelfie.com.