Every culture has its own traditions, customs or beliefs that are transmitted from generation to generation. For indigenous people like those in the Tagakaolo community in Mindanao, traditions have special meanings, and are important elements of their identity. Traditions often offers benefits to children, but are they all good for children?
Child marriage, a harmful traditional practice that can be prevented
The legal age to get married in the Philippines is 18, but the practice is widely spread across the country, particularly in rural and isolated areas where poverty, access to education and social norms play a crucial role.
Child marriage often has far-reaching negative consequences. It often denies a girl her right to an education, and leaves her far less able to take advantage of economic opportunities. As a result, child brides are likely to remain poor and more likely to experience domestic violence.
This was the turning point for Tagakaolos who have seen child marriages as a common practice for generations. But from our programs, we know there are solutions to prevent child marriages. Educating parents and community members, providing economic support and education, and promoting supportive laws are some of the crucial strategies.
“We found out that paid arrangements—exchanges that our parents used with us—are not beneficial for our children, but rather result in separation and poverty. In the past, we used to have 10 to 20 cases every year in our community, but I can tell numbers are going down fast,” explained by Datu Chiquito, one of the tribal leaders.
Discipline without violence, a practice that keep children safe and families together
The practice of corporal punishment is widely spread in the Philippines. We know that 85% Filipino children experience violent discipline at home, and about two in three parents say that they use corporal punishment to discipline their children. It occurs in schools, communities and homes, in rich and poor areas alike, and impacts physical and emotional wellbeing of children of all ages, races, social and economic backgrounds. However, it was interesting to know that is not a common practice in the community of Tagakaolo in Upper Lumabat, Malungon, Sarangani, Philippines. Disciplining children without violence is not a new or difficult thing to do for them.
“Our traditions pass from generation to generation, from grandparents to parents and to children. Whenever there’s a problem with a child, we provide advice to the parents, usually the advice come from the elders,” said Datu Chiquito.
One of the mothers in the community adds, “We sing songs, tell stories and talk to them. This is also how we were raised and what we learned from our ancestors, so children understand what’s right and wrong. We talk to children and ask them what they want and why. If for example, they want a horse, we’ll explain why we cannot provide it to them and how much you need to work to get one. When they don’t accept it, children stay on the floor under supervision of adults.”
The whole community is in charge of disciplining children, and the care and protection of children is everyone’s responsibility. “This way of teaching children what’s right and wrong is good for us because children grow with good manners, as a good person and they will finish school” she adds.
Watch a video message from one of the community leaders on positive discipline.
First Declaration in the Philippines to protect indigenous children
Save the Children has facilitated different forums with tribal and community leaders to inform about children’s rights and the need for protection against violence. Through these efforts, seven tribal leaders including women, youth and elders from Mindanao decided to organize a child protection forum where they drafted and signed the First Declaration by indigenous people in the Philippines to protect children against child labor, armed forces, child marriages and corporal punishment—issues that harm children and their communities. Tribal and community leaders led the process, and are now committed to disseminate this information and support implementation in their communities.
Our work to protect children from violence
Save the Children works with the most vulnerable children and families. In Mindanao our work with indigenous communities focuses on education programs and providing support and information sessions for parents, communities and local governments. We are also supporting formal and informal systems that prevent and respond to any form of violence against children.
Watch this video and find out more about our work globally to protect children globally and the impact on children’s lives.