Today is International Day of the Girl, and I gladly grab the excuse to write about young girls and how we each can help set the stage for their brighter future.
Last year, as COVID-19 was spreading to alarming levels, World Vision Development Foundation spearheaded a campaign that matched sponsors to more than 350 young girls across the country. This year, the Philippines’ largest child-focused humanitarian organization hopes to achieve, if not surpass the same feat with #GirlsCan.
Why the focus on girls? In its campaign literature, World Vision sounded the warning that “the pandemic has all the more worsened the inequalities that girls experience.”
Citing various research from United Nations and International Justice Mission, World Vision provided alarming global statistics: (1) the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 has put 10 million girls more at risk of child marriage; (2) an estimated 1.2 million girls could still drop out of school due to various risks, while the school year reopens; and (3) the risk of abuse of children in the Internet and online sexual exploitation of children have increased four times during the enhanced community quarantine period.
Against a bleak backdrop, can we rescue these girls and turn their adversities into stories of hope? Sierralyn, Lydel and Ameerah share their touching testimonies that offer a resounding yes to this question.
Sierralyn shares bountiful harvest to neighbors
The youngest of six children, 17-year old Sierralyn learned generosity from her parents. When her family harvests vegetables or fruits from their 7-hectare farmland in Batangas, they make sure to give some to their neighbors, provide for their own needs, and then sell the rest.
“I admire my parents for their generosity towards others despite our situation. People here respect and love them for that. And I imitate it. I also give when I can. It’s a good feeling to give,” says Sierralyn.
She became a World Vision-sponsored child when she was in Grade 5, and now that she is in senior high school, she dreams of being a lawyer someday. Sierralyn grew up attending numerous World Vision and school activities in her community that developed her self-esteem. “There are many children in our community who stay home because they are shy. I used to be like them. I had doubts about myself. My self-confidence was low. It’s difficult to conquer the world if you are shy. You will miss many opportunities,” she says.
She adds, “When you have parents like mine, any girl can dream big regardless of their circumstances. Parents are like a child’s feet. If the feet are not strong, the child will not be strong.”
Lydel gets herself ready for the next disaster, even pandemic
At 11 years old, Lydel believes that she is resilient. At her young age, this girl from the outskirts of Bohol province has survived many disasters, from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake when she was only 3, to her parents’ separating when she was 9, and most recently the pandemic that has kept her and many children her age shut in, struggling to adjust to a new normal.
“I understand why children are not allowed to go outside. It is for our own safety. We risk our lives if we go out especially that our body is not strong enough to fight the virus,” she shares. “My advice to my fellow children is to follow the instructions of the adults because they know better on how to protect us,” Lydel continues.
She also shared her number one secret on how she and her family overcame their problems before. “Do not forget to pray. Trust that God has control of everything.”
As a World Vision-sponsored child, Lydel receives educational support and her family is also provided with livelihood opportunities. She claims that the most significant intervention she received are the child-focused activities she attended along with her friends.
“My most favorite lesson is preparing against any disasters especially against natural calamities like typhoon and fire. I can relate to it because I already went through many problems in life and it is very important to stay ready and prepared,” concludes Lydel.
Ameerah’s education continues, and her dreams too
The pandemic hit Ameerah’s family income hard. The youngest of 7 children, 7-year old Ameerah is grateful to her sponsor and to World Vision that allowed her to continue with her education.
Before COVID-19, her family would have an income of at least P3000 each week. Her father, Abdul, is a construction worker and the sole breadwinner.
“When the community quarantine was enforced in Lanao del Norte, my husband could no longer go to other towns to work. His movement was limited within our community and our income was significantly reduced to P1000 weekly,” says Sittie.
Addressing her daughter’s sponsor and World Vision: “Your support to Ameerah’s education means a lot. While we want to provide what you just gave her, we have to prioritize food,” she adds. Aside from crayons, Ameerah, along with close to a thousand children in their community, also received notebooks, pens, papers, bag and umbrella.
World Vision has also been working closely with the schools in Lanao del Norte, to help both teachers and students cope with the pandemic. As schools implement modular learning, the organization has provided reams of bond papers and printer inks for the production of modules.
“Thank you for my school supplies. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor or a teacher,” Ameerah smiles."
#GirlsCan with your sponsorship
Child sponsorship with World Vision in the Philippines only costs P25 a day or P750 per month. Sponsoring a child is the most personal, effective way to help fight poverty. When you sponsor a child in need, you are building a connection that encourages the child and gives hope that a brighter future awaits. One sponsor’s donations are combined with those of other sponsors and this can lift the sponsored child and other children in the community out of poverty.
And while the #GirlsCan campaign highlights the issues that young girls face, World Vision affirms how they make sure that boys’ needs are not ignored. “Because of World Vision's community-focused solutions, for every child you help through child sponsorship, four more children benefit, too,” explains World Vision.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.