Filipino Youth leaders join UN International Youth Day, calls for better Philippines and better future ahead

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By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios

The late Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Philippine National Hero immortalized the role of the youth in shaping the country’s future, hence when he said, “The youth is the hope of our motherland” that still redounds in the minds of the people, old and young alike because its meaning and essence cannot be denied.

As our youth continues to face challenges in so many aspects such as education, mental health, employment opportunity in the midst of pandemic, the responsibility to carry our country over and bring back the old glory remains on their shoulder.

As we celebrate International Youth Day today, August 12, let us not be content with saluting and praising the youth with the oft-repeated phrase: “the shapers and hope of the future”. Instead, let us mark this day, designated for the youth by the United Nations General Assembly, and make it more meaningful, by acknowledging that in reality, there are situations and barriers which affect our collective development as young people to prepare us to be leaders and the hope of the future. A greater collective solidarity is crucial to combat these persisting barriers towards a more humane society where human rights are protected and ensured, equity and social justice are the norms and young people are at the forefront in a society we help to build.

Rise from the Margins!

The world has an estimated 1.21 billion young people aged 15 to 24, according to the United Nations World Youth Report in 2020. At the same time, the Philippines has the largest generation of young people in its history, with 19.8 million as of January 2020. Given a supportive environment to develop their full potentials, the Filipino youth is a driving force for sustainable development. The reality, however, shows a very high number of young people battling a never-ending cycle of poverty, lack of education, violence, and human rights abuses that restrict their aspirations and prevent them from enhancing their world-changing potentials.

Around the world, there are about 262 million or 1 out of every 5 children, adolescents, and youth who are out of school. The Philippines has an estimated 3.6 million of the 38.2 million Filipinos aged 6 to 24 years considered out of school youth in 2017. It has gone up to 10 million because of the pandemic. As the pandemic lingers, we fear that more children and youth may be lost to the education system entirely, becoming more vulnerable to child labor, trafficking, abuse, and violence. The pandemic, exacerbated by home quarantines and loss of livelihood has brought us anxiety, disrupted routines, social stresses, and academic challenges associated with the shift to blended and distance learning. These have been heightened by the lack of or reduced access to physical and psychosocial support.

While it is recognized that young people have the ability to contribute new and fresh perspectives, even to the ills of the nation, we remain to have limited participation in the whole process of decision-making and limited representation from positions of governance. Our point of view is usually that of an outsider, our causes are seen as resistance.

As the natural heirs of the world now faced with bigger problems, increased youth participation will further empower young people, help build communities and remedy a range of social problems. WE can and must rise from the margins! This is OUR collective responsibility!

Claim Our Future!

EDUCATE the youth for a fair chance to take part in social and economic life actively and productively. The unjust realities have to be addressed and actions must be taken to ensure that the fundamental human rights, especially the right to education of the youth are protected and secured.

UPHOLD AND SECURE the right of all young people to quality education at all levels. The government must take appropriate steps to make education accessible to all, increase public investment and expand the public provision of education in terms of coverage and quality improvement targeted at areas where the need is greatest – rural areas and urban poor communities and reaching the most marginalized, excluded and vulnerable children and youth. 

PROTECT AND DEFEND the youth from State terror and violence. It is not enough to put the youth in schools.  Young students and activists should be free to exercise their Constitutionally granted rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association and recognize that youth initiatives and community-based actions produce mass-oriented movements that can lead to massive education awareness towards an education system and society that prioritize the Filipino people’s interests and advancement.

CREATE AND GUARANTEE spaces for youth participation in the whole process of decision-making to prepare young people to become active and effective citizens. Participation is a fundamental right of all people, regardless of age. Ensure that young people are educated and involved in policy-making processes and given the opportunity to take part in various platforms to discuss youth-policy matters and propose changes and improvements on budgeting for education and other essential services i.e. health, environmental protection, disaster risk management, and attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), at local, national and international levels.

We must continue to believe that the youth are capable of becoming the catalysts of positive social changes. We must not be seen as only beneficiaries but agents of our future.

Education empowers. Education shifts powers. The more young people are educated, the more young people are engaged in movements for a better future.

Together, Let Us Rise from the Margins and Claim Our Future!

“Edukasyong Sapat, Ligtas, Karapat-dapat, Para sa Lahat!”

#EducationForAll #AccessForAll #InternationalYouthDay

The Enet Youth Network:

Active Genuine Youth Leaders Association (AGYLA) • Alyansa ng Mamamayan ng Bagbag Youth (ALMABA)  • Youth Academic Ease Stakeholders’ Solidarity (ACCESS)  • Kabataan Kontra Kahirapan (KKK)  • Pinagsamang Lakas ng Kabataan – Unang Hakbang Foundation  •  PUP Students’ Party for Equality and Advancement of Knowledge (SPEAK)  • SEEDS (Solidarity for Environmental Development and Sustainability) Philippines  • Safe Cities Youth Theater Advocacy Group  • Santisimo Rosario Integrated High School Supreme Student Government  • Singkamas Youth Organization  • Unang Hakbang Foundation •  Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND)