In Zamboanga, ‘freedom run’ held for child rights
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Children in this city celebrated the country’s 121st Independence Day by wearing their worn-out shoes to raise awareness on children’s rights and liberation of children from all forms of abuse and exploitation.
The “walk and run for freedom” on Wednesday was participated in by at least 900 children and their parents and guardians. The activity was initiated by the child rights advocacy group Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance Inc. (Zabida), through one of its affiliates, Katilingban, an urban poor organization in Barangay Sinunuc here.
“Majority of these children are from our centers, street children, former victims of child trafficking, children from the urban poor communities, children from our housing units and other affected barangays and they are all coming from different faiths,” said Claretian priest, Angel Calvo, Zabida president.
Mom at 12
For 16-year-old Maritess, who bore a child at age of 12 due to physical and sexual abuse, such an advocacy came too late for her.
“How I wish this had been (available to me) when I was younger,” said Maritess, a laundrywoman.
She said she would make sure that her 4-year-old son would get to enjoy all his rights as a child.
Ely Cambongga, one of the midwives at the health center in Barangay Putik here, said health workers were dealing with more than two dozen cases similar to Maritess’.
“Young girls are deprived of their rights. The sad reality (is that) abuse starts at home, or girls come from poor and broken families,” Cambongga said.
Police Capt. Shellamae Chang, spokesperson for the Zamboanga City police, said law enforcers recorded 129 rape cases involving children in 2018 and 41 cases of acts of lasciviousness against minors.
Calvo said Zabida’s centers had rescued at least 50 children from the streets while more than a hundred under the group’s care were in school. —JULIE ALIPALA
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