University#NotForSale: On the commercialized and online sexual exploitation of youth
#NotForSale: On the commercialized and online sexual exploitation of youth

Held last March 7 at the Work Folk Collaborative Spaces in Makati, Plan International’s event titled Face Your Peer discussed the growing rate of violence against children within the Philippines. It pressed the youth to advocate against the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) by taking part in the process of peer education.

Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) member Mariane Dorothy, Jiu Jitsu World Champion Meggie Ochoa, and Plan International Philippines Campaigns and Advocacy Specialist Pauline De Guzman were featured as speakers for the gathering.

 

Releasing the module

“We want this to become a national priority,” the Campaigns and Advocacy Specialist stressed,  urging government agencies, the private sector, and the media to raise awareness on the issue of CSEC and OSEC.

As she discussed the module, which was in the form of a guide book integrating the principle of peer education as an approach to youth empowerment against sexual abuse, De Guzman hoped that it will provide the Filipino youth enough knowledge to deal with the aforementioned cases, adding that it should “not only capacitate those who are most vulnerable, but more importantly, create an environment that is supportive to the protection and prevention of children being abused and exploited.”

Targeting a demographic of children ages 12 to 24, De Guzman shared her hope for the youth, especially victims, to establish a support mechanism and build an international network of peer educators with the same goal of ending CSEC and OSEC.

The module is also accompanied by a strategy of training children to acquire skills in becoming peer educators. “We will be creating more leaders, not followers,” Dorothy assured, adding that the module also prompts its users to share the knowledge with their peers.

Among the locations the peer education module is planned to be rolled out to are Baguio City, Bataan, Leyte, Manila, Masbate, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tacloban City, and Zamboanga.

 

Photo by Enrico Sebastian Salazar

 

Tapping the youth

“Our (Plan International’s) efforts to end commercial sexual exploitation must start with the protection of our youngest citizen: the children and youth,” De Guzman emphasized.

She also revealed that Plan International formulated the idea when they considered the youth’s role in fighting against the issue. “That is why sabi namin maganda na ma-tap natin yung youth natin para, doon palang sa mga bata, na itatransfer na natin yung knowledge o nabibigyan na natin sila ng skills para maprevent nila yung CSEC and OSEC,” she disclosed.

(That is why we said to ourselves that it would be good to tap the youth while they are still young so that we can transfer our knowledge or equip them with the skills to combat CSEC and OSEC.)

According to De Guzman, Plan International also plans on engaging with school organizations to conduct the module, while partnering with Sangguniang Kabataan and the National Youth Commission to adopt their approach.

 

Breaking the stigma

Ochoa shared that although she is known for her Jiu Jitsu, she defended that sports can also serve as a platform in raising awareness for sexual abuse.

She stressed that sports have their own individual communities with large audiences. ”We use that platform to raise awareness on these issues that a lot of people in the country don’t even know about,” Ochoa proposed.

Aiming to break the stigma of sexual abuse, Dorothy claimed that not all Filipinos are aware of the realities of the situation, but emphasized peer education’s potential to alleviate this concern, as peer educators share knowledge and facts among one another and raise awareness on what is really happening.

“We should not allow anyone—someone to silence us. You should not allow anyone to silence you,” Dorothy stressed.

The GSP member also encouraged her fellow youth to participate in the Face Your Peers campaign. “We (the youth) should be the peer educator that will be their strength when they are weak, and that will be their voice when they are mute,” she stressed.