All they really wanted—at first—was a conference for all the graduates of the Women and Child Protection Specialty training, shares Dr. Bernadette Madrid, the current President of the Ako Para Sa Bata Conference and Executive Director of the Child Protection Network Foundation.
Dr. Madrid recounts that the beginning of the conference was 2007 at Sofitel: they hosted the Asian conference of the International Society for the prevention of child abuse and neglect, dovetailing it with the graduation—and then it suddenly became very big, with 32 countries participating.
With 800 participants in attendance, they formulated the goal of having the participants gain new knowledge about the different areas of child protection.
“The conference became a venue for presentations of research and programs that have been shown to work in terms of intervention and prevention of child abuse and neglect,” Dr. Madrid explains.
The venue has always been in Manila, but they did try to change the venue in 2015 by holding it in Marco Polo, Cebu. They learned that they had to have a bigger venue, and they even had to turn away people. They brought it back to Manila for 2019 so as not to repeat logistics issues.
“There’s always a theme. So, we’ve had domestic violence. We’ve had children with behavioral problems, culture, child abuse. For the last two years, it centered around INSPIRE, which are the seven strategies that have been shown to work in preventing or in reducing child abuse and neglect,” Dr. Madrid elaborates.
This year, Ako Para Sa Bata added youth involvement to increase participation and self-determination about matters that concerns them. To better highlight program achievements and to ensure the success of strategy implementation, the youth were encouraged to be involved.
With the rise of the internet, the majority of speakers for 2019 tackled how social media affects the youth.
Dr. Madrid recalls that in 2005, young people would have occasional meetups, but still with the use of SMS. But not similar to the scale of cases of what they see now. She notes that the Internet is a part of the youth:” “It will always be there, we have to deal with it.” She says that they still don’t know what services needs to be changed or added—even for therapy, she is still unaware about strategies that could be used.
The future is to inspire everyone
“The preparation for Ako Para Sa Bata, it’s the whole year round. In January, we will already start for the November event because the lectures, the activities, they have to be carefully thought about. Because what we want is that anybody working in this field, a frontliner, a policymaker, parents, there should always be a takeaway when they go home. There’s something that they can do immediately and also to inspire people.”
Dr. Madrid explains further: “Every time, there’s an impact. Every time, there’s always something new, there’s always something different,” She says that if anything, every year, there should be more youth participation.
“In the future, the focus would be on online and mental health. With the volume of cases of suicide growing exponentially compared to just a handful of years ago, whether it’s because of social media, we don’t know yet. But given what I know now, I don’t think I would change anything. We will continue to involve all sectors, not just the doctors and the police,” Dr. Madrid underscores.
“The protection of children is a job for everyone,” Dr. Madrid concludes. “That has been what we’ve been trying to do for Ako Para Sa Bata. This is a conference that no matter your profession is, it is something that will benefit you in taking care and nurturing your child. While it is a cliché that it takes a village, it does take a village. So we’re building a village.”
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