“When you become aware there is a problem, you should not do nothing. You act on it and try to know more,” emphasised Jessa, 16, from Northern Samar, in the Philippines.
Jessa, along with Nikko, 15 and Neil, 17 are 3 of 40 young people across the provinces of Masbate, Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar who have been trained to monitor social protection programmes for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
They gained their roles through the Social Protection Project, implemented by the Philippines Consortium on Social Protection, headed by Plan International. The project increases children’s participation in social protection systems in the country.
Supporting marginalised groups
Social protection is a popular government approach to reduce poverty and inequality. The National Economic Development Authority’s Social Development Committee defined social protection, as “a set of policies and programmes that seek to reduce poverty and vulnerability; and to enhance the social status and rights of the marginalized.”
The young people involved in the project add the perspectives and insights of children in monitoring results and help towards policy and programme improvements that benefit everyone.
“As young citizens, it is important that we are involved because we too have opinions to express and we know about the issues,” Jessa added.
“The ability to empathise on what they are going through helped me as a child monitor. I understood the problem even better,” Nikko said.
Young people become leaders
The children’s groups have developed their own tools such as questionnaires and focus group discussions to help find out the opinions of marginalised groups in society. They have also been trained to interview government officials and business owners.
After gathering data, the children presented their findings and recommendations to their respective Mayors and local government officials.
The Social Protection Project is focussed on increasing children’s social awareness and their ability to become responsible in exercising their rights. The aim is that they become engaged citizens who are concerned about the welfare of marginalised groups.
“If our generation does not give them the attention they need, our generation will also suffer,” Neil exclaimed.
“We are the future leaders. It is good that at such a young age we are already able to help a lot of people. So that, when we are ready, we can create a bigger change,” Neil added.