Almost two years since a lockdown was declared in the country, children all over the Philippines face overwhelming sadness and anxiety that is specific to their generation. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on our children, as families also continue to struggle with the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic that have threatened their livelihoods and limited their access to basic social services.

For underprivileged children who have had no opportunity to attend school since the start of the pandemic — online or offline — the likelihood of going back to school decreases with every day. Out-of-school children, especially girls, end up being more vulnerable to early marriages and teenage pregnancies, and to cases of child abuse and gender-based violence.

The National Children’s Month is observed every November as part of state efforts to commemorate the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This year, we are guided by the theme New Normal na Walang Iwanan: Karapatan ng Bawat Bata Ating Tutukan, placing an emphasis on making sure that the rights of every child are protected and upheld despite the constraints of the pandemic.

The Office of the Minority Floor Leader (OMiFL) has taken steps towards this important goal, as the first Bahay Pag-asa in the Bangsamoro region broke ground in Lamitan City, Basilan last August. It marked the beginning of a multiphase project proposed by the OMiFL in hopes of protecting the rights of children who are among the most vulnerable while also strengthening the juvenile justice and welfare system in the region. The OMiFL has also consistently supported the Festival of Love and Peace organized by Save the Children of War (Basilan) Association Inc., with 500 children beneficiaries across three municipalities in Basilan this year.

True to the advocacies she has championed in as a human rights lawyer and public servant, Minority Floor Leader MP Atty. Laisa Alamia has pushed for the rights of Muslim girls in the Bangsamoro both in local and international platforms. Her efforts to advocate for equal access to education, health, and other services necessary to secure just and equitable living for children and their families will continue beyond this month’s observance, knowing that her fight for children’s rights is a lifelong commitment.