Pleasant morning to everyone.

Violence against children remains to be a hindrance in ensuring that all children enjoy their rights as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite the knowledge of its impact on children, existence of legal frameworks and interventions on child protection, it remains to be prevalent, poorly understood, and often socially tolerated.

At the global level, I am aware that UN Member States have pushed forward all efforts to promote the agenda of ending all forms of violence against children.  The progress achieved by the Millennium Development Goals serves as a strong foundation and investment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which have made explicit its commitment to ending all forms of violence against children by 2030.

The 7th Cross Regional Meeting is a milestone for the forum as it is the first time that children will participate in this annual activity, which has always been attended by adults. Mindful that children’s voices should be heard, this forum will give children a chance to voice out their concerns, opinions and recommendations on matters affecting them most.

The inputs of the Children’s Parallel Session will be used as the basis of the discussion in supporting efforts to reach goals and targets related to ending violence against children agreed upon in Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development.

ASEAN acknowledged the importance of intensifying efforts to prevent, protect, and respond to all forms of VAC, hence, the adoption of The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Elimination of Violence against Children in ASEAN in 2013.

At the 27th ASEAN Summit in 2015, the Member States adopted the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence against Children (RPA on EVAC), which the SRSG-VAC referred to as a global landmark in establishing a regional agenda on VAC.

Violence against children can happen anywhere- it could be in schools, institutions, workplace, community and at home where the children should feel the safest.  The scars leave our children with long-term damaging effects to their development and total well-being.

In 2015, the Philippines has completed its National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children (NBS-VAC). It reported that two out of three Filipino children have experienced any form of physical violence; three of five have experienced some form of psychological violence, and one of four children suffered from some form of sexual violence. [1]

These are trying times for our children. Deep-rooted problems of violence and sexual glorification and personification are amplified in social media and the internet. Rights and lives are relegated in favor of click-bait headlines and exaggerated content.

Let us also be reminded that of the more than 185,000 individuals displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi City, more than 50,000 of them are children[2]. School opening in Marawi has been postponed for at least two weeks.

Children in evacuation centers, in debriefing sessions, draw pictures of their houses, which shows how they long for their families to return to their homes.

We need to discuss these problems with children, how these issues matter to their lives, and to our society. Children have the capacity to look into much larger pictures than we adults think they could. Children should be included, consulted, and engaged in discussions that matter in their lives.

Proper interventions must be provided to children victims of violence. Our DSWD Region VI Field Office (Iloilo) shared a powerful story of recovery and rehabilitation. Anna, not her real name, was rescued by DSWD and the local government of Boracay in 1993. She was a victim of child abuse and trafficking.

Anna stayed in a private rescue center. She finished her education with a social work bachelor’s degree. Later on, she would work in DSWD Field Office VI. She is now in Germany working with an international NGO against child trafficking.

Her example shows how hope springs from gloom, and how hope blooms into strength. From a rescued child, she has now become a beacon of light to her community.

Hence, as the host of the 7th Cross Regional Meeting on Violence against Children, I encourage all governments, delegates, civil society organizations, to strengthen cooperation and collaboration across governments, sectoral bodies, institutions both at the regional and international level to eliminate all forms of violence against children.

[1] Chapter 11, Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022

[2] Based on DSWD-DROMIC (June 4, 2017) and UNICEF data.