2 Zambo youths speak out for girls’ rights in Denmark PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 20 May 2016 13:40

Two Filipina youth advocates from Zamboanga City are joining Plan International at the 4th Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, to help drive discussions and solutions needed to deliver the promises the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have made to girls, particularly those in conflict areas who are most vulnerable.

Rosie, 19, and Fahada, 16, will speak about their advocacies on girls’ rights to world leaders and leading organizations with girls’ and women’s rights programmes. Both have first hand experiences on armed conflict, including suspension of classes for several months during the Zamboanga siege in 2013.

Following a 12-month Plan International-led empowerment programme, equipping girls as advocates to embed girls’ rights within the SDGs, Rosie and Fahada were chosen to represent their peers at Women Deliver, which takes places from May 16-19.

Rosie campaigns on issues such as girls’ rights, education in emergencies, teenage pregnancy, and violence.

“In areas where there is armed conflict, it is hard for young girls to go to school. How can they go to school when they don’t feel safe? When their school has been bombed or get attacked either on their way to school or going home? The peace-building process has to be in place for these areas, such as ours, for us not to be afraid to go to school,” Rosie says.

During the Zamboanga siege, Rosie’s house became an evacuation center. “We heard the explosions and we all just dropped to the ground,” she says.

Rosie’s campaign work took her to the World Education Forum (WEF) in Korea last year, where she spoke to key global influencers such as UN special adviser Amina Mohammed and Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, about the importance of education for all children. In particular, she highlighted the barriers girls face when trying to access education.

Education is important for us living in conflict areas. It helps us rise above the situation and secure a better future for ourselves and our future children. That is the only way development can be achieved in our communities,” Rosie says.

Aside from issues on education in emergencies, both also share that injustice is happening in their community. “Girls are abused in many ways – I have friends who are victims of sexual violence. Now, they are teenage mothers,” Fahada says.

As a Plan International youth advocate, Fahada is keen to raise awareness about violence, inequality, and barriers to education.

Fahada isn’t afraid to speak up for girls’ rights, having travelled to last year’s UN General Assembly, a historic moment that sadw the launch of the SDGs.

During the assembly, Fahada met UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, singer Shakira, Pakistani activist for female education Malala, and fellow girl advocates. She even shared a panel with Michelle Obama to launch the First Lady’s 62 Million Girls education campaign.

Since returning to the Philippines, Fahada is still sharing her experiences at school and through local organizations - and she’s determined to speak up for girls’ rights once again.

“Because of teenage pregnancy, girls are losing their passion in education. And as an advocate, I want to serve as an inspiration and be the voice of the girls to lessen violence and stop teenage pregnancy,” Fahada says.

Fahada takes her role as a girls’ rights advocate seriously and sees herself as a “voice for their rights.” She’s also keen to speak out on issues such as education, health, teenage pregnancy, and the related issue of early marriage, which she says is a huge problem in her community. To prepare for her role at Women Deliver, Fahada researched on what issues are important to girls as well as interviewed teenage mothers in her community to find out the impact motherhood is having on their education.

At the Women Deliver conference, Plan International’s CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen will be setting out how the Because I am a Girl movement will work towards creating a world that values girls, promotes their rights, and ends injustice as Plan International and its partners will be launching a new global initiative to drive and track SDGs implementation for women and girls.

The Women Deliver Conference is the largest gathering of policy makers, experts, dignitaries, activists, members of civil society and business leaders in a decade for girls’ and women’s rights, health, and well being, following the launch of SDGs.

Plan International has been working in the Philippines since 1961 with a focus on helping marginalised Filipino children in more than 400 communities across the country access their rights to education, health, protection, and participation.