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Girl advocate calls for an end to violence

Read a powerful speech made by 16-year-old youth advocate Ghene to the Philippine House of Representatives as she calls on her country leaders to approve a law promoting non-violent discipline and banning corporal punishment.

Ghene making a speech to the Philippine House of Representatives
Ghene believes that positive discipline can reduce crime in the Philippines.

Corporal punishment is not uncommon in the Philippines. According to a 2011 study, 2 out of 3 Filipino children experience physical punishment. To end this practice, a proposed law promoting positive and non-violent forms of discipline and prohibiting corporal punishment has been presented to the Philippine House of Representative for review.

On 30 January, the Philippine House of Representative’s Committee on the Welfare of Children deliberated the approval of the law. During the hearing, 16-year old Ghene, a Plan International youth advocate from Ifugao, gave a speech to convince the committee to approve the bill.

Here is what she said:

“I am Ghene from Ifugao. Allow me to share about the kids in my neighbourhood who I used to play with. It saddens me that they grew up with vices and many of them have stopped going to school. I witnessed how their parents humiliated or hit them in front of me for failing to do their household chores.

“In my family, I saw the value of positive discipline. Before, my parents hit me if I did something wrong. They would get mad at me. But when a positive discipline project was introduced in Ifugao, it changed my family. Now, my parents practice positive discipline to my siblings.

we all have the same dream—to live in a country that would defend our rights and protect us from violence

Positive discipline helps children learn

“Every time I’ve done something wrong, instead of humiliating and insulting me, my parents would explain to me the value of having a good behaviour and tell me what I had done wrong. I learn better that way.

“When our community became a part of the project, cases of crimes, the amount of children involved in crimes and reports of abuse decreased.

“In Ifugao, corporal punishment is seen as the only form to discipline children. But this has caused children to rebel.

Leaders must support children's rights

“As a child, I have rights. The Philippines signed the UNCRC (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). Therefore, the government has an obligation to initiate programmes and implement laws that support our rights.

“You are the pillars of this country. You enact the laws. In you lies the hope of every Filipino child, every family and every parent.

Ghene outside the Philippine House of Representatives
Ghene's speech drew on her experiences of growing up in Ifugao.

“Let me share my dream—our dream. Every child you see on the street, the child you see loitering and not in school, we share the same dream. Your children, your nieces and nephews, we all have the same dream—to live in a country that would defend our rights and protect us from violence. That is our dream, and we are asking for your support.

“I am Ghene. I support this bill, and I hope you shall too.

“I have written a poem which I dedicate to you:

Ghene's poem

“The Joyful

“For we have our children,

“Born of the sun

“The joy apart from sorrows, the symbol of life

“They smile with colours of hope for a peaceful future

“They are young and beautiful, little children of life

“You were once children too, you cried and you laughed

“Now you see them stay at the corners and they sob

“What will you do? They are asking for your help.

“Will you remain silent too?

“Like the years that passed?

“That’s all. Thank you very much.”

After the hearing, the committee approved the bill. It will be presented to the plenary for deliberation before being passed to the Philippine Senate for final approval.

Read the Filipino version of her message