The Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE), the youth arm of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women- Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), envisions a society where men and women enjoy genuine equality. It aims to see a world where all human beings are free from all forms of abuse and discrimination and where everyone works together towards uplifting the dignity of humanity and promoting empowerment.
We are the transformed young men and empowered young women after having attended life-changing camps organized by CATW-AP. Such camps on gender issues, sexuality, and prostitution have allowed us to reflect on the deeper causes of violence against women and children. Such camps have inspired us to unite and empower the youth, to organize echo camps, to change more lives and to campaign against patriarchal values and policies towards a more equal and gender-responsive society.
We are children, too. We know how it feels to be ridiculed and made fun of. We have had our own share of experiences of such cruelty and demeaning acts while five family members at home were listening in or while fifteen people from the neighborhood were watching. We know how it feels. It was shameful and it took us a long time to heal the pain those have caused. How much more for a defenseless child with millions of people watching? Again, we do not want such shaming to be repeated and we want the world to know more that children have rights, too.
We are children, too, and many of us have been commodified, violated, sexualized, and our dignity trampled on as children and as girls. We know the strong role of media, and even families and communities, in sexualizing children and women, while glorifying aggressive and violent masculinity. We cannot allow more of us to be violated or to be rendered vulnerable now, nor later as adults.
We are children, and our situation of poverty compounds that vulnerability. We refuse to be used as toys, to be exploited because of poverty, to be used so that others may continue to profit.
We are children, too. There are those who consider our ideas useless and our efforts inadequate. There are those who think that we are too young to understand the situation of the world or to effect change on it. They think that we lack experience and knowledge, and that our young age puts us in a lower position than adults. However, those people cannot discourage nor weaken us. Instead, they give us more reasons to push for dignity, equality, and respect. They give us reasons to continue what we are doing — fighting for what is right and just.
We are children, too and our ideas are worth listening to. Our individual and collective efforts towards change can become as significant as those of older people. We can shake the world and let it see the impact we can create. We have rights, equal with anybody else’s, rights which we inherited from the very beginning , rights which we in YSAGE vow to defend until the end. We are children, advocating for our own rights and the rights of every child around the world.
Thus, YSAGE members support the courageous move of our youth camp adult facilitators Ms. Jean Enriquez and Mr. Gerald Imperial, and other advocates from SCREAM (Stop Child Rights Exploitation and Abuse in Media), who took legal action to ensure that children’s rights are protected. We stand by the credibility of Dr. Lourdes “Honey” Carandang, who has helped our Coalition in empowering the survivors of prostitution, many of whom were exploited, too, as children.
We hope that justice for all children will be served.
For the National Council
Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality – Philippines (YSAGE)