By Brian James Lu

BRIAN JAMES J. LU, MMgt, is an entrepreneur, business adviser, government consultant, and is deeply involve in civil society organizations. He advocates good governance, ethical business practices, and social responsibilities. He is the President of the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) and Chairman of the Foundation for National Development (Fonad). His broad experiences in the private and public sectors give him a unique perspective to advance his advocacies.

November is designated as the National Children’s Month in the Philippines, thanks to Republic Act 10661 of 2015. Also known as the “Buwan ng mga Bata,” it is annually celebrated every November to commemorate the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on Nov. 20, 1989.

With the yearly celebration of the Buwan ng mga Bata, the Philippines seeks to instill in every Filipino the promotion and protection of children’s rights. The Philippines subscribes to the definition of the UNCRC, which recognizes a person below the age of 18 or a person over 18 years old who is unable to fully take care of or protect himself or herself because of a physical or mental disability or condition.

In Quezon City, I participated in the Children’s Month Celebration together with the children and leaders. The theme adopted by Quezon City was “Ngayon, Para Bukas! A Call for Collective Climate Action.” This brings into perspective the climate change concern of children amid environmental disasters worldwide.

The Quezon City celebration puts into children’s perspective their concerns ahead of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), or COP28. The children presented to the COP28 delegation the results of the children’s dialogues and surveys from the Local Conference of Youth 2023, U-Report, and the Quezon City Children’s Climate Change Agenda. It was so captivating to witness the children present the results to the COP28 Philippine delegation. Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte graced the celebration as a guest speaker to express her support for the children and the event.

Across the country, the theme “Healthy, nourished, sheltered: Ensuring the right to life for all” puts into focus a healthy environment, good education, and health care as the primordial considerations for their development. Various local government units (LGUs) participated in the month-long activity.

Children’s Month is a time dedicated to celebrating the innocence, potential, and rights of children worldwide. This year, the annual celebration continued to honor the unique contributions and needs of children, aiming to create a nurturing environment where they can thrive. With a focus on education, health, and overall well-being, this year’s celebration brought together communities, organizations, and governments to empower and support the younger generation.

Throughout Children’s Month, numerous educational initiatives were organized to promote learning and development. Schools, nongovernment organizations, and government agencies collaborated to host workshops, seminars, and interactive sessions. These aimed to enhance educational access, quality, and inclusivity for children from all backgrounds.

Every Nov. 8 is also National STEAM Day, which is integrated into the Children’s Month celebration. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics programs, encouraging creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills among the youth.

Health remained a paramount concern, particularly in the Philippines. The leading causes of child mortality, which are preventable, include pneumonia and diarrhea. Initiatives during Children’s Month focus on promoting healthy lifestyles, access to healthcare, and mental well-being. Vaccination drives, health camps, and awareness campaigns addressed essential issues like immunization, nutrition, and mental health support for children and their families.

Cultural celebrations and artistic endeavors play a significant role in engaging children and fostering creativity. Art exhibitions, music festivals, and theater performances provide platforms for children to express themselves, showcasing their talents and cultural diversity. These activities aim to instill confidence and a sense of pride in their heritage while encouraging mutual respect and understanding among different communities.

Children’s rights awareness and advocacy campaigns are central to the month-long celebration. Workshops and discussions educate children about their rights while empowering them to voice their opinions and concerns. Additionally, forums involving policymakers and stakeholders highlight the importance of safeguarding children’s rights and implementing policies that protect their well-being.

The Philippines is one of a few countries that have legislated various laws for the protection of children. Foremost is the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act, or Republic Act 7610. The law provides for special protection for children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development. In the age of cybertechnology, the Philippines enacted Republic Act 11930, which punishes online sexual abuse or exploitation of children. The United Nations has also hailed the Philippines as a pioneer in children’s participation, which is defined as “engaging with opportunities to form and express their views and to influence matters that concern them directly and indirectly. The Sangguniang Kabataan is one form of the youth’s participation where they participate in community initiatives.

Inclusivity remained a core principle in all activities and events during Children’s Month. Efforts were made to ensure participation opportunities for children with disabilities, marginalized communities, and those facing socio-economic challenges. Accessible venues, sign language interpreters, and tailored activities were integrated to ensure everyone could actively engage and enjoy the celebrations.

The success of Children’s Month is largely due to the widespread involvement of communities, volunteers, and local leaders. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, NGOs, businesses, and individuals fostered a supportive environment for children. Fundraising events and donation drives aim to provide resources and support to underprivileged children, emphasizing the importance of collective responsibility in nurturing the younger generation.

Children’s Month 2023 is another step further in the promotion of the rights and welfare of children. The month-long celebration serves as a platform to reaffirm the commitment to children’s well-being, education, and rights. By fostering a nurturing environment and promoting inclusivity and empowerment, the yearly celebration can lay the groundwork for a brighter and more equitable future.