Contributed by Ysrael C. Diloy, Advocacy and Training Officer
When Stairway first started out with our child protection advocacy, which was then called CSAP (child sexual abuse prevention), we were in a situation wherein we wanted to cover different parts of the Philippines with the advocacy, and reach out to as many stakeholders and children as possible.
Being a small team of advocacy and training officers, Stairway had much ground to cover, which was compounded by the situation that during that time, there were too few organizations working on the issue of child sexual abuse and its prevention. To avoid creating excessive strain on a single organization because of the scope and magnitude of the problem, we had to think of a strategy which would enable the expansion to as many areas and regions as possible. Thus, in 2008, the Break the Silence campaign (BtS) was conceptualized and launched.
The BtS campaign was conceptualized because of our desire to increase the reach of the child sexual abuse prevention program. We wanted to capture the essence of what we were doing with CSAP, and we felt that Break the Silence best describes what we want to achieve – to break the silence on the culture of shame surrounding child sexual abuse. For 3 years from 2008 to 2010, a pilot test was done in order to determine the feasibility of the BtS concept. The BtS concept basically centers around 3 main goals:
1) Build capacity in partner organizations on child sexual abuse prevention and management;
2) Launch widespread advocacy campaigns, reaching out to communities and children themselves with the CSAP sessions;
3) Create and expand local child protection networks that will act as safety nets for children who do disclose.
We weren’t entirely sure if such a model would work, since it was in essence trying to capacitate different organizations to also carry out the child sexual abuse prevention program in the same way Stairway was doing it, and hopefully, they themselves would also innovate based on their local context. The experience from 2008 to 2010 was of such a positive experience that we found the majority of the partner organizations fully embraced the BtS concept, and were doing the advocacy on their own, As a result, we were encouraged to expand the coverage of the BtS campaign, starting a much larger phase in the period from 2011 to 2015.
The 2011-2015 phase saw us expanding the BtS reach to other areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and engaging with partners coming from different backgrounds including the Social Development arm of the Catholic church, as well as individual organizations working with children’s villages, the Deaf community, tribal communities, prostituted women, and many other communities. Another hallmark of the 2011-2015 phase was the rapid expansion of the BtS network, wherein those trained directly by Stairway were tasked to train partner organizations of their own in order to broaden the BtS network and reach out to more children and communities with the child sexual abuse prevention program. Eventually, the BtS network expanded to a membership of 50 trained organizations scattered across the country, doing child sexual abuse prevention and management in varying levels and degrees.
As the 5 year project comes near its completion with only 1 year to go, the last training block for the BtS G6, a group of BtS network members who were selected by us to mentor until they reach the status of “full scale CSAP resource centers”, was conducted last November 25 to 29, 2014 at our training center in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. Participation included the following organizations: Food for the Hungry Philippines, Bakyas Community Development Center, KAPASKI, TALIKALA, GVSP, Northern Samar Children’s Ministries Network, SOS children’s village and the Social Action Center of Zamboanga City. It was also attended by active partners from 2 local government units –Zamboanga City and Ipil Social Welfare & Development Office, and also, by Mr. Bill Felisan, an extraordinary Police Officer who is also a member of the BtS network. The last session focused on crafting a revised Vision, Mission, set of Core Values and Goals for the BtS network. Eventually, the group decided on this straightforward vision:
Ending Child Sexual Abuse in the Philippines
The group felt that the vision reflected precisely what they wanted to collectively achieve for the Philippines through the Break the Silence campaign.
It was also a time to reflect on the progress the organizations and the BtS network have made, from community, organizational and through to the personal level. The BtS members shared different realizations and success stories, along with the challenges they overcame, and are still trying to overcome. Amongst the insights shared during the last training block included the following;
“BtS has changed my perspective on child abuse, especially child sexual abuse. Before, I didn’t like the advocacy because it seemed so difficult, especially since our organization’s mandate does not include children at risk or abused children. BtS has been an eye-opener for me personally and also for the organization. And now, we have created a niche on child protection, recognized as a resource on child protection especially on child sexual abuse prevention.” – Glenda from Food for the Hungry Philippines
“BtS given Bakyas a niche in terms of child protection in the area. It capacitated the organization in handling child sexual abuse cases which we encountered even before, thus giving us the confidence to manage it appropriately. The CSAP sessions created much awareness not only to help children protect themselves, but also for the community to respond through reporting cases. Personally, it raised my confidence to discuss the issue with others because of the developed skills and knowledge, it also changed my mindset and attitude in many aspect and it added a sense of purpose in the work” – JanJan of Bakyas Community Development Center, Inc.
“Through the BtS, NSCMN can now handle disclosures from all sectors of children. It also facilitated the opportunity for us to conduct CSAP sessions all over the province of Northern Samar. We also saw the communities we work with become more vigilant against child sexual abuse, and refer cases to the NSCMN. Children now also have the courage to disclose because of the support they get from the BTS campaign and for me personally, it made a big difference when it comes to how comfortable I am in conducting CSAP session for different audiences” – Merlyn of Northern Samar Children’s Ministries Network
“Through the BtS partnership, Talikala has enhanced its existing Child Protection Policy. Staff are now capable to give CSAP orientations. One staff can do sustained counseling (walk –in/referral) and it has created new opportunities for establishing partnership. The communities we work with have identified CSAE cases, becoming more vigilant and referring more cases to us. Overall, community members recognized that child sexual abuse was a major protection issue.” – Janeth of TALIKALA
“The BtS Project became a flagship programme of GVSP, enabling us to become the premier organization that addresses Deaf Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (DCSAE). Since the inception in 2011, BTS elevated the issue of the rising, and often overlooked cases of DCSAE within deaf community. Senate Bill 2118 or The Filipino Sign Language Act of 2014 was recognized because of the impact of BtS. BtS opened the doors and has put DCSAE on agenda not only in the national level but also in the ASEAN by having GSVP win the TAYO ASEAN award (Ten Outstanding Youth Organization). Partners, Gov’t agencies recorded cases and there’s an increase in referrals involving deaf children and women. There has been significant increase of disclosure within schools and communities. The Deaf Community found a platform for them to report and share their experiences and it gave them a voice in seeking justice and fight for their right. Personally, the BtS project gave me the sense of direction in my life and I have found the real essence why I am here. It has given me the support I needed for me to unfold my full potential to empower me to do more for the deaf community and PWD sector in general.” – John Paul of GVSP
“Through the BtS campaign, SOS went beyond the children’s villages; we went to the community. We became more observant on the children’s behaviors, and have initiated CSAP sessions due to increasing number of disclosures. We have now included CSAP in SOS organizational plan.” – Laurice of SOS Children’s Villages Philippines
“The BtS boosted the organization’s level of confidence and it has opened up opportunities for funding. The BtS also strengthened the network through invitation of the conduct of BtS to different originations. The trainings provided enhanced our competency and skills in handling and managing disclosures of child sexual abuse. Most importantly, we have placed the best interest of children in everything we do.” – Daren of SAC-Zamboanga
The BtS provided us the capability of giving trainings and orientations, as well as mentoring other partners in terms of Child protection which is not our priority and capacity before. We have established strong partnership and linkages with the Local Government Unit counterparts in terms of financial and technical support. We have established a good track record in the community as we have been recognized as a child focused organization. We used to be dependent with our funding partner before now, but now, we are already tapping resources within our community like LGU and other agencies. The BtS campaign also became the way for KAPASKI to prioritize Child Protection and create our own child protection policy. On a personal note, before, I was only teaching in small kindergarten classes, but through the BtS, I was developed to be a good facilitator. I didn’t notice that the process I have undergone under the BtS has enabled me to facilitate sessions with different sectors. I believe this is because of the mantra of the BtS training – “to get out of our comfort zones”. I am also proud to say that a person that I have always looked up to told me that that she also wants to be like me, a CSAP facilitator. I can say that my capacity now as a focal person is highly influenced by BTS and this is something that no one can take away from me and something that I can be proud of. Sometimes it comes to the point that I become afraid of the challenges of the BtS project, but I always think about the children who have suffered sexual abuse. They become my inspiration to continue the being a BtS focal person. With all the challenges I have faced, this is the only thing I can say: “Never fear all challenges, for we work for the welfare of our children” – Sharon of KAPASKI
Hearing the sharing of the BtS partners, their different insights added validation to the reason behind the BtS campaign. The past 4 years have clearly shown us the results of the BtS campaign at the level of the network itself, the partner organizations we work with, the partners in their community and most importantly, the children themselves.
For us at Stairway, it has been a wonderful learning process, as we have garnered so much insight from working with our partners. The growth of the BtS network was parallel to our own personal growth as well as at the organization level, for we have realized that it was indeed possible to set the agenda for child protection with different stakeholders, and the methods we have used although not perfect, were effective in reaching the intended targets. In retrospect, with a team of only a few people in the advocacy program, it is quite difficult to believe that we could have pulled off such a project. However, because the concept came from the very people who were implementing it, coupled with the passion for protecting the rights of children, it all became something we slowly realized we can do.
And as we wrap up the last year of this phase of the BtS campaign, we would like to share further achievements of the BtS network since 2011.
- A total of 53 NGO and LGU partners, all implementing the BtS campaign at different levels and capacities
- Presence in 12 out of 17 regions in the country
- Partnership with the Philippine National Police, 4Ps DSWD and the Department of Education at various levels that aim to facilitate advocacy at the local/community level
- Outreach to 42,267 children and 24,678 adults with the CSAP sessions, together with 5,083 mixed adults and children. There are of course a number of unreported CSAP sessions happening across the BtS network.
- A total of 425 disclosures of children handled throughout the period