The Beauty and Strength of Femininity Through the Eyes of a Child Leader

She dreams of a society where children, especially girls, can safely and confidently walk in the streets, and pursue their dreams without fear or discrimination.

Type: Story

In the community where Sydney, an 18-year-old child leader from Malabon, lives in, men and women do not have equal opportunities. Contrasting an ideal world, gender shapes the kind of life they are living.

“In households, the norm that women should do the chores and men should work for their family remains. In schools, girls should never show skin as it could be distracting and inappropriate. In the community, there is still the stigma of people preferring men to be their leader because women are weak,” she said.

Sydney is a part of a community that provides inadequate safeguards for girls. Her story is deeply rooted in experiencing and witnessing gender-based violence and inequality. Yet, she believes that her capabilities and strengths as a girl would never let her down.

“As women, we have outstood years of discrimination and inequalities, and we continue to hold our ground. Innate, we are strong. As women, we are naturally empathetic and can openly speak our minds, and we use it to empower each other. I think these are the beauty of being a woman,” she said.

The impact of gender roles and stereotypes to children

Sydney started her engagement with Save the Children Philippines as a child representative of her barangay when she was eight years old. She started attending seminars and training sessions to actively learn about and help promote children’s rights. She is also now part of the Barangay Children and Youth Association (BCYA), a local organization in her barangay that allows her to pursue her passion in advocating for social development and women empowerment.

“Save the Children was an eye opener for me. Through my engagements, I learned that the voice of the children is such a big deal when talking about issues and problems about them. Save the Children taught me to claim my rights and needs as a girl. Save the Children’s continued dedication to this advocacy should also be adopted and manifested by the government since they have the power to educate children about their rights,” she shared.

One of the struggles she mentioned that girls face is how they are treated unfairly at school. She shared that girls' showing skin is deemed suggestive, whereas the same behavior is acceptable for boys.

“Recently, I competed in our school’s Miss Intramurals, and I was wearing a tube shirt. One of my male classmates told me to wear a jacket on top of it. I asked him why he’s asking me to wear it in this hot weather. I told him it’s fine and that I was confident with my body. He then told me that I’m a girl and I should be conservative. Although I knew he meant no harm, I didn’t think it was an appropriate thing to say especially when I want to show people that I’m confident in my body.”

At home, it isn’t much different for Sydney either. She admitted that girls are expected to do chores within their family. “I would often be told to do chores, be organized and well-put together just because I am the girl in my family. There was a time when my brother and I weren’t doing anything at home and my mom asked me to do chores just because I was the girl even though both my brother and I weren’t doing anything,” she shares.

She believes that mindsets like these bring about pressing issues in their community, such as gender-based violence, sexual abuse, and discrimination. What upsets her more is that girls are always held accountable rather than recognized as the victims when these issues arise.

“It’s disheartening to see and hear. You’re the victim and people would put the blame on you on why you became a victim,” Sydney said. “I visited a museum before and saw a story of this infant who was six months old and is already a victim of rape. Would people say that this infant got raped because of the way she dressed? I hope people would start asking themselves, is the way we dress really the problem? Are girls really the reason why rape cases happen or is it because of the way men think?”

The United Nations Population Fund stated in 2020 that the Philippines has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia. As a child leader, Sydney aims to take more steps further in creating a better place for children. She hopes to let every child know that they have rights and that they are not to be abused in any way.

“If we look at childhood, it’s the shortest period of our lives. Adulthood’s the longest. Let’s not promote teenage pregnancy and just let children be children.”

On her aspirations as a child leader

At first, Sydney had doubts if she could be a great leader. With all the unsettling scenarios she witnessed at such an early age, she thought it was time for her to step up and become one of the voices of children who are suffering the consequences of these inequalities. Save the Children Philippines Save the Children became an avenue for her to fulfil her advocacy.

“When Save the Children gave me an opportunity to speak, I realized that I could help address the issues and problems faced by children as I am a child as well. I realized that I can be a voice of these children and I can be a leader,” she shared.

Her confidence further grew through her continuous engagement with Save the Children and her duties in BCYA in implementing new programs for children. Now, she has the confidence to take on several roles in many different organizations and represent the country through her engagements with them.

“Last year, I represented the Philippines in Bali, Indonesia. I spoke about adolescent pregnancy and other issues faced by children in our country through an international organization for women that I am now a secretary of. This is a big achievement for me. I was also nominated this month in our local government unit’s Gawad Parangal for being a child who has positively impacted the community.”

Further, Sydney plans to continue her advocacy of empowering girls and women not just through Save the Children and the many organizations she’s a part of, but through her future career as well. She dreams of becoming a social worker after finishing her college degree.

“I have experienced sexual abuse myself. I thought that if my experience wasn’t as bad as what’s happening to other children and other girls but have already affected me deeply, I couldn’t even imagine what it’s like for them, especially those who are not aware of their rights as children,” she said.

She dreams of a society where children, especially girls, can safely and confidently walk in the streets, and pursue their dreams without fear or discrimination.

She shares, “An ideal world is one where everyone feels safe in the community they live in and one where they are being heard. In an ideal world, the government can act on these issues effectively. It will be hard to achieve, but I hope it happens someday.”

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Save the Children Philippines has been working hard every day to give Filipino children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for and with children to positively transform their lives and the future we share.

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