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Child Advocacy at MAPAC

10/11/2011: Philippines

The two-week course organized by the Geneva Office of FMSI on Child Rights at MAPAC (Marist Asia-Pacific Centre), Cainta, Philippines, closed recently. It took place from 17 to 28 October and focused on an in-depth study of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the mechanisms of the UN and how to present a submission for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). We are pleased to publish the account written by Br. Peter Rodney, who was among the participants.

“The program at MAPAC provides us with the opportunity to conduct intensive study of special topics in a module format that can run every day for one or two weeks. It is a challenging format but it allows us to really focus on a subject in depth.

We have just completed a two week module (17-28 October) training us in child rights, entitled: Advocacy: Keeping Children Safe. It was led by two Brothers from the Geneva Office of FMSI – Jim Jolley and Manel Mendoza.  Given the importance of the topic, we were joined in our study by two members of the Mission Ad gentes Sector: Neiva Hoffelder and Br.Diego Zawadzky.

For most of the participants we needed to acquire a whole new language: the language of child rights, child advocacy, child protection; and knowledge of the terms, bodies, and processes of the United Nations. In fact we were challenged by a new paradigm – a rights-based approach to ministry with and for children. Over the weeks we moved from a grounding in language and terms, to advocacy at the national level, then to where we can start at our local level.  Along the way there were various activities, case-studies, role plays, research assignments, that fixed all that we were learning about child advocacy in the reality of our own countries, our Institute and our ministries. The research and reflection opened our eyes to the realities of children in our own places of ministry.  The reporting was a means by which we shared with each other about the realities of young people in other countries – our eyes were opened to the realities of situations where other Marists minister.

So, all along the way we were challenged to open our eyes, and see things differently – a rights-based approach for viewing the situation of young people, and how also our ministries might function differently.  Assisting us in broadening our vision were two visiting experts: Ms. Brenda Vigo, who as Executive Director of the Council for the Welfare of Children, is the head of the peak body tasked by the Philippines National Government to work for the welfare, development and protection of children. All that she presented was made very real by the presentations of Br. Crispin Betita – a Brother of the East Asia Province who for 20 years has been running the Marcellin Home in General Santos City, Mindanao for young people in conflict with the law. Crispin’s humble telling of his story of how he came to be involved in the protection of children, and how he puts the children first – often quite courageously – was truly inspiring.

The module proved to be an appropriate context also for developing our awareness of the new Institute policies and guidelines being developed by the General Council for the protection of children and young people in the care of our ministries.

It has been a very full two weeks – and an experience that has got us thinking, and hopefully inspired to take action – advocating for and protecting the rights of children in whatever places we minister, both now and in the future.”

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