Teach girls to say “No!”

Joining the worldwide celebration of the first International Day of the Girl Child today, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), lead government agency for gender equality and women’s empowerment, has one message: Girls should know how to protect themselves from any form of abuse and speak out against it.

“While more girls are enrolled in school these days, what we teach them equally matters,” PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa said. She added that “empowerment involves learning how to protect one’s self” and “you can protect yourself if you know your own body. Verzosa added that the skill to protect one’s self from abuse is one of the concerns of age-appropriate sexuality education, a provision included in the Reproductive Health Bill.

“Every Filipino girl-child deserves to have equal opportunities and be free from any form of discrimination. Any improvement in the lives of girls gives a ripple effect. Girls, just like boys, become nurturers of the future generations and become pillars for the advancement of the society,” PCW Chairperson Remedios Ignacio-Rikken said.

Rikken added that issues on health, protection and participation continue to impact the lives of Filipino girl-children while violence, child labor and poverty prevent them from fulfilling their potentials.

Rikken also said that lack of gender-based education increases their vulnerability to reproductive health risks. She stressed that adolescent girls should learn how to protect themselves from unsafe sex and parents should not force their daughters into early marriage.

Rikken is glad that Filipino girl-children are not left behind in terms of the county’s educational standing. “Girls have fared better in elementary and secondary education. What we should work on now is to lessen the drop-out rates among boys,” she reiterated with concern.