The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recently held an online dialogue with United Nations (UN) Special Representative on Violence Against Children (VAC) Dr. Najat Maalla M’Jid to discuss pertinent measures to strengthen child protection systems amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The high-level dialogue, chaired by DSWD Secretary Rolando Joselito D. Bautista, provided a platform to discuss policies and enhancement mechanisms to address VAC concerns. Likewise, it highlighted the status of the implementation of the Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence Against Children (PPAEVAC), which is the blueprint towards building a safe, nurturing, and protective environment for children.

During his speech, Secretary Bautista urged the participants to ensure that the government’s priorities to eliminate all forms of violence against children are realized, despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic.

“Protecting and promoting the welfare of children is not only a duty we pledge to fulfill but also a moral obligation we firmly stand by. In staying true to our commitment, we realize that the opportunity to effect change – from the micro to macro levels across all aspects – is a crucial foundation in cultivating an accepting and empowering environment for our children to grow with principled visions, and eager and passionate heart,” Secretary Bautista said.

“Being faced with the present-day crisis, greater risks were posed as we continue with our intensified efforts to guarantee that every child is shielded from harm. Hence, the conduct of this dialogue is a necessary development to present and discuss challenges and initiatives, highlighting the key progress of the country, in accelerating “the end violence against children” agenda in the Philippines and to define key priorities for 2021 and beyond,” the Secretary added.

The dialogue, was also attended by UNICEF Philippines, Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), other national government agencies, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and child representatives who shared inputs on the risks posed by the pandemic and the need to provide adequate and quality physical, social, mental, economic, health, and legal programs and services.

During the dialogue, the DSWD vowed to continue to collaborate with concerned stakeholders to scale up existing mechanisms to improve VAC reporting, referral, and data collection, as well as the prioritization and expansion of protection services for children.

The Department also assured that the commitments in the PPAEVAC are fulfilled by advancing systems, programs, and policies that will protect children from all forms of abuses, violence, and discrimination. ###