I am one of the many young girls who grew up in a place where there is always conflict. In my part of the Philippines, in Zamboanga, Mindanao, even during more peaceful times, a lot of us would still be afraid. When armed rebels attacked our city, the village where I lived was on red alert. So my family had to leave home and go to an evacuation center.
I experienced what it was like to live in an evacuation center but instead of feeling helpless, I decided to volunteer there so I could provide support to other evacuees like me. That was my way of escaping what was happening.
A calling born from experience
Later when we were back home, I became active in youth groups to be able to help those who are still in transitory sites because their homes were burned down during the siege.
That’s how I became part of the Girl Declaration Project, part of Plan International’s Because I Am A Girl campaign. I joined nine other girls in advocating for girls’ rights. I was chosen by them to attend the World Education Forum in South Korea as a youth delegate in May 2015. There, I was able to express how important it is for girls like me to have access to safe, quality education for us to have a better future.
Representing girl rights at world events
My participation at the 2016 Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen last month is the continuation of my advocacy. It was a huge opportunity for me to face world leaders and talk to them about issues like education in emergencies and youth employment especially for young girls like me. During the two sessions where I was a panelist alongside very important, powerful people, I was able to explain that even young people can be a part of change. I myself was able to change my parents’ perspective about what girls can do.
In my own way, I’m trying to help girls and young people. I am a founding member of ABA or Action Bridges Aspirations and there we conduct trainings for leadership and youth empowerment for both girls and boys.
In Integrated Resource Development for Tri-people (IDRT), another one of the organizations where I’m active, we focus on the development of the different transitory sites that were affected during the siege as well as the youth coming from other areas affected by armed conflict.
We need more advocates
But we need more people to help with this advocacy. We’re always looking for others who may have the same or related objectives as us. This way, we can work together because one of the greatest challenges is trying to convince people to support the needs of so many young girls when they’d rather play deaf.
Another challenge is how to sustain our advocacy and connecting with those who can help us do that. Sometimes you need to find a way to achieve the result you want despite not having the strength in numbers.
Many young people still need help to learn about their rights
After attending the Women Deliver conference, my hope is to really feel the change when it comes to girls and see that the SDGs will make a real difference.
I hope that all the leaders I met are discussing it and actively preparing for this better future.
For me, I will continue to be an advocate. With the people I met at Women Deliver, we can share the issues we discussed at the conference and what our advocacy for girls and for the youth in our own country is.
My hope is to reach all armed conflict areas, to meet all the youth there and let them know their rights – the right to quality education, the right to be free in making decisions for their own good, the right to a better future.
I want those places that we are not able to reach to have access to information about girls’ rights.