Plan International Philippines' Because I Am A Girl Briefing

April 11, 2015
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I was invited by Plan International Philippines to attend its BECAUSE I AM A GIRL  BRIEFING  that was held on March 26 at Il Ponticello Cafe Ristorante in Makati City. I seldom attend events and this one, I did my best not to miss because it was for a good cause. 

My first encounter about Plan International was during Blog Action Day 2013. After one year and five months, I never thought that I would be given an opportunity to be part of its campaign. It was truly and honor and blessing for me.

Before I delve deeper into the briefing, let me introduce to you what Plan International is. 

"Founded over 75 years ago, it is one of the oldest and largest children's development organizations with no political, religious, or governmental affiliations. It's vision is of the world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people's rights and dignity."

"Plan International has been working in the Philippines since 1961 with focus on helping marginalized Filipino children in more than 400 communities across the country to access their rights to education, health, protection, and participation."

"It works in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia, and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. In 2003, it worked with 78 million children more than 90,000 communities around the world."


I have a heart for causes like this. I'm not rich with material possessions but I'm very fortunate of being able to get good education. That right was given to me by my parents and that saved me from different trials and awkward situations when my parents separated. I was able to get many opportunities and privileges that I thought would never been given to me if I wasn't well-educated. 

Despite the fact that I was well-educated, I was an abused child until I reached the age of 27. I was verbally abused by my own dad and it made me feel that I was less of a person. I was also bullied in school and work because I let it happen. I was taught to just keep quiet, be submissive, and believe that reasoning out was a form of disrespect and it would make the situation worse. My mom, brother, and I were inside the cycle of abuse and it ended when we decided to live without the presence of my father and away from people of negative influences. I sheltered my kids from their presence and started teaching them the way to protect themselves in case they may be dealing with the same situation as ours and to treat people the way they want to be treated.

My husband, who was still my boyfriend then, encouraged me to go out of my shell. He was the one who taught me how to fight for my rights. 

Like my husband who defended me and helped me to become assertive, Plan is there to help underprivileged children especially girls to end their misery of being not able to practice their rights due to their situation and other circumstances through acquiring the assets, skills, and knowledge necessary to succeed in life.

I may not be as influencial as others but through blogging, I may help spread the word about Plan International Philippines' projects for the betterment of Filipino children especially girls.

On February 2015,  Plan International launches the Girl Declaration Project to educate chosen girls from all over the country to be spokespersons on behalf of Filipino girls.  Let me share with you this press release.

"In order to promote the inclusion of girls’ rights in the ‪‎Post 2015‬ agenda, Plan International officially launched the Girl Declaration Project‬ last February by conducting a three-day start-up workshop to develop the leadership skills of ten select teenage girls from all over the country."

"From Ifugao, Naga, Manila, Rizal, Masbate, Nothern Samar, Cebu and Zamboanga, the girls came together to identify the key issues faced by girls in the country today. They became fast friends as they found common ground in their desire to bring about positive change and advocate girls’ rights."

“'I feel so honored to be part of this group. I want to help other girls like me,' shared Charity Vivero, one of the girl advocates. Through the workshop, the girls gained the knowledge and tools they needed in order to create a national advocacy campaign."

"Rosielen Alfonso, and Ghene Dulnuan were selected by the group to represent them in the World Education Forum to be held in Korea in May. For the UN General Assembly in New York happening this September, the group voted Fahada Jailani and Lindsay Mercado."

"All the girls however are determined to speak up in behalf of the thousands of young girls in the country and they will be gearing up for the next coming months as they prepare to influence key stakeholders in government to ensure that girls are at the heart of the post 2015 development agenda."

Source: Plan International Launches the Girl Declaration Project, February 2015

Then BECAUSE I AM A GIRL BRIEFING followed as part of the commemoration of Women's Month to report  the state of the world's girls and to share the happenings behind the Girl Declaration Project.

Plan International shared its 2014 report on the State of the World's Girls. Paulene Santos, the Campaigns Coordinator of Plan International Philippines, shared some startling facts about the pervasive issues that girls around the world continue to face every day; namely, the lack of access to quality education, child marriage, early pregnancy, violence, sexual abuse, and gender discrimination.

Some of the facts discussed were the following:

-65 million girls across the world are out of school. 
-Globally, 1 in 5 girls of lower secondary school age is out of school.1   
 -Girls‟ primary school completion rates are below 50% in most poor countries.                 

-Every year, 10 million girls are forced or coerced into marriage. 2                                        

-Every 3 seconds, another girl is forced or coerced to marry. 3                                                       

-1 in every 3 girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. 4                                       

-1 in 7 marries before they reach the age of 15. 5                                                                           

-150 million girls, and 73 million boys, under 18 have experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence. 6                                                                                                                              

-The leading cause of death for young women aged 15-19 in developing countries is pregnancy. 7
The critical role of men and boys in the process of achieving gender equality was also made clear. According to Paulene, bringing about change means men and women from across the social spectrum must challenge the status quo together.
This was cited as an important element in harnessing collective power that can bring about transformative change touching on all the institutions that surround girls – the social, the economic, and the politico-legal.

The issues that girls here in the Philippines face were also discussed, as Plan International Philippines shared its data indicating that girls drop out of school for several reasons ranging from poor quality of education, poverty and child labor to socio-cultural norms and high rates of teenage pregnancy. Human trafficking was shown to be a very real problem in the country as well, especially in times of emergencies when women and adolescent girls are more susceptible to being victimized.

Plan went on to share some of its current initiatives which are aimed at addressing these issues in support of its Because I Am A Girl campaign. One of which is the recently launched Girl Declaration Project that Michelle Caindec, Plan International-Philippines Child and Youth Advocacy Coordinator, explained will allow for a youth-led advocacy to influence the government in including girls rights as an integral part of its sustainable development goals.

Source: Press Release- Plan International Reports on the State of the World’s Girls, March 2015

The Five (5) Goals of Girl Declaration Project are as follows:

1. Education which is priorized by leaders. Girls must complete secondary quality education. There must be an increase in the funding of girls education.

2.  Access to  safe, age appropriate health information and services.

3.  Safety which means freedom from violence and exploitation.

4.  Economic  Security by learning to earn a safe and productive income.

5.  Citizenship  

How can these goals be met? 

There must be improvement on girl's leadership skills. It is very important because it provides clear guide to the barriers that hold girls back from realizing their full potential and remove those barriers. 

How can these be implemented? 

1. YOUTH LED ADVOCACY which includes leadership workshops for the girls that focus on adolescent sexual reproductive health or teenage pregnancy and connecting with United Nations Mission in the Philippines.

2. PLATFORM AND VOICE which may influence the government to pursue girl's rights before the United Nations General Assembly before September 2015.

3. INTERNATIONAL EVENTS which include World Education Forum on May 2015 and United Nations General Assembly on September 2015.

To sum it all up, Plan International Philippines is doing its best to send its key messages for the Filipino girls to the entire counrty and the whole world- "I AM EMPOWERED...I AM PROTECTED...I AM EDUCATED...". These can all be achieved by SAFEGUARDING GIRLS' FUTURE, PROMOTING GENDER EQUALITY, and IMPROVING THEIR LIVES.

Because I Am A Girl Briefing: Welcome Remarks by Badeene Verora, Country Program Advisor for Gender; Because I Am A Girl: A Global Social Movement by Paulene Santos, Campaigns Coordinator; Overview of the Girl Declaration Project by Michelle Caindec, Child and Youth Advocacy Coordinator; Message from a Girl Advocate by Lindsay Mercado, Girl Declaration Project Advocate

1 UNESCO - UNESCO‟s Institute for Statistics Estimation

2 Bruce, J. and S. Clark (2004), “The Implications of Early Marriage for HIV/AIDS Policy”, Brief based on backgroundpaper prepared for the WHO/UNFPA/Population Council Technical Consultation on Married Adolescents New York

3 Plan's Breaking Vows: Early and Forced Marriage and Girls‟ Education, 2011

4 UNICEF (2011), “The State of the World‟s Children 2011, Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity”, New York: UNICEF Population Council

5 The Elders (2010), “Child Marriage”. Accessed 24 May 2011

6 World Health Organization, Geneva, cited in General Assembly. 2006. Report of the Independent Expert for the United Nations Study on Violence against Children

7 Because I am a Girl. The State of the World‟s Girls 2009. Girls in the Global Economy: Adding It All Up, p.51. London, Plan. World Health Organization. WHO, Women and Health

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