According to the World Health Organization, “Adolescence is a life stage characterized by growing opportunities, capacities, aspirations, energy and creativity but also significant vulnerabilities.”
These vulnerabilities include exposure to violence that may have started from childhood—emotional, sexual and sexual violence. Adolescents are also at greater risk for intimate partner violence and violence from peers. Adolescents also face problems with injuries, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and mental health.
When teens are subjected to abuse, they become more prone to risk behaviors like sex, alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Abuse also puts survivors at higher risk for health problems, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and even cancer.
How do you protect children and adolescents from these vulnerabilities?
Ako Para Sa Bata is an annual conference organized by Child Protection Network (CPN). This year, the 11th AKO PARA SA BATA International Conference aims to advocate for the adoption of the INSPIRE strategies into the national and local programs to end violence against children and adolescents.
INSPIRE is an acronym that summarizes the seven strategies used by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and many other organizations, to end violence against children. INSPIRE stands for:
- Implementation and enforcement of laws
- Norms and values
- Safe environments
- Parents and caregiver support
- Income and economic strengthening
- Response and support services
- Education and life skills
Dr. Emma Llanto is the Chair of the Scientific Committee of this year’s conference. She said, “We need to prevent and recognize abuse, and [we need to] intervene so we avert these consequences. Protection should also extend to adolescents, and so for this conference, we aim for the adoption of the INSPIRE strategies into the national and local programs to end violence against children and adolescents.” CPN is proud to say that Ako Para Sa Bata is “a conference for teens, with teens, by teens.”
The mornings of the conference feature plenary discussions. On November 19, Fr. Fidel Orendain, SDB, is giving a talk titled, “Wired Adolescence: Perceptions, Risks and Opportunities.” Fr. Orendain is President and Dean of the Don Bosco Technical College, Cebu.
To explain the teenaged brain, Prof. Liane Alampay explains why, as teens become smarter, uneven brain development makes them emotional, impulsive and prone to make poor decisions. Prof. Alampay is a Professor at the Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University.
On the second day of the conference, November 20, Julia Rees of UNICEF and Richard Sisson of the Australian Embassy to the Philippines discuss one of the MAJOR dangers that teens face: online sexual abuse and exploitation.
What are the stressors that affect teenagers? Bullying, discrimination, mental health, sexuality, these are big, incredibly stressful things, and the way they affect teens will be discussed by Dr. Cornelio Banaag, Founding Member Philippine Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
There will also be a panel discussion hosted by Prof. Randy David and Atty. Katrina Legarda, titled “Off the Record: Bullies and MOMOs Gone Viral.”
The afternoons of the conference feature simultaneous symposia, where topics introduced in the plenary sessions are discussed in greater detail. Each session will be feature different speakers, as well as a youth reactor.
To discuss the Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children, there will be a two-part simultaneous session titled “Shining A Light on the Dark,” featuring speakers from UNICEF Philippines, PLAN International Philippines, Stariway Foundation, Facebook, Center for the Prevention & Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse, Child Protection Unit-Philippine General Hospital, and Marie Collins Foundation.
Teens are subjected to many stressors, which will be discussed in different sessions across the two days. “The Rainbow Connection” will examine norms and attitudes towards gender roles and diversity. “Mental Health Screening and Interventions” will discuss what frontliners can do to recognize depression among teens. “Masayang Pamilya Para sa Pilipinong Teenager” is about Positive Parenting for teens, and “Beyond the Birds & the Bees” talks about Comprehensive Sexuality Education for teens—including those with developmental disabilities.
Other sessions tackle a variety of topics. “Juvenile Justice” will discuss the needs of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL). In “Influencers, Entrepreneurs, and Dreamers,” speakers from Human Nature and WiTech talk about having young people at the helm.
What is it like to be a teenager in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)? The session titled “BARMM Youth: Empowered, Engaged & Ready for Nation-building” will tackle their adolescent sexual and reproductive health; issues of cultural minorities; and role of adolescents and youth in peacebuilding.
To emphasize the participation of the youth in this conference, CPN, in partnership with the Council for the Welfare of Children, organized a teen conference on November 16 and 17, at Museo Pambata. The participants, aged 11 to 19, discussed issues they face at school, in their barangay, at home, and suggestions for strategies to address these issues. Their discussions and recommendations will be presented in a plenary session on day two of the conference.
As per WHO, adolescence is a life stage characterized by significant vulnerabilities, but perhaps there will come a time when there will be fewer vulnerabilities to discuss, so that everyone can talk instead about teens and their opportunities, capacities, aspirations, energy and creativity.
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