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Raising awareness of child rights in Mindanao

Our Children Affected by Armed Conflict (CAAC) project involves advocating for the prevention of children’s engagement in military activities, whether as direct combatants or in other roles.

Children in conflict areas in Mindanao are at great risk of being recruited into armed and military groups. As part of our concerted effort to protect them, we have joined the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency to raise children’s awareness of their rights. Our Children Affected by Armed Conflict (CAAC) project involves advocating for the prevention of children’s engagement in military activities, whether as direct combatants or in other roles.

The project supports an agreement between the United Nations and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help remove or ‘delist’ the MILF from the UN Secretary General list of armed forces and groups that use child soldiers. "Once the UN knows that there are no longer any minors in the rank and file of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) [the armed wing of the MILF], the MILF will be delisted,” says Jocelyn Kanda, CAAC project coordinator.

Painful history

The armed conflict in Mindanao has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in the past decades, and displaced more than three million people from their homes.

The armed conflict in Mindanao has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in the past decades, and displaced more than three million people from their homes

"Every night, people share their painful experiences from the past," says Nash Kumilang, a former child soldier. "At a young age, I thought of getting revenge. That’s why I joined the BIAF, even though I wasn’t the right age to join.”

Now as a community educator, Nash shares the importance of education and upholding children’s rights during armed conflict with the children in his community, as well as their parents in MILF base commands.

“The campaign can contribute a lot to this," says Nash. "It’s important for parents to encourage their children not to join armed groups because it can have long-term consequences for them,” he warns.