Min is 9 years old. She could be somebody’s wife in a few years, but her mother makes sure that never happens.
Early marriage is still prevalent in some parts of the Philippines. However, many of today’s indigenous communities are putting an end to this practice – by empowering girls through education.
Our team at Save the Children met Min, a young T’boli girl from Sarangani. Min is one lively girl, teeming with stories and energy despite her small frame.
Min’s eyes light up whenever she talks about her mother.
We are happy to share this inspiring story of a T’boli mother and her dearest daughter, Min.
Her chores were done and classes were over; it was time for Min to rest.
The little girl came running down a hill, leaving a musical trail of beads and bells. Long strips of beads swung from her hair as bells chimed at the tips of her bronze belt.
These sounds announced her arrival.
Min began dancing, quite shyly, behind some shrubs. She danced from afar as she watched another woman dancing beside a stream.
The music was simple yet hypnotic; unimaginable how it came from a two-stringed guitar.
Min’s community, the T’boli, is a group of indigenous people in the Philippines. The T’boli are rich in dance, music, handcrafts, and folklore.
Their love and care for nature are also evident in the way T’boli children care for animals and keep their surroundings clean.
A mother’s dream
Now in 4th grade, Min is determined to become a doctor someday. “I want to cure kids like some of my sick classmates,” she said in her mother tongue.
In fact, Min loves to teach her schoolmates about hygiene. She gives class demonstrations on how to properly wash hands and brush teeth.
Min must have gotten her knack for teaching from her mother, Lilybeth.
Lilybeth is a 32-year-old T’boli woman, a mother of two, and a college student. She is studying to become a teacher.
In a few weeks, she is graduating – many T’boli women of her generation were never able to earn a college degree, let alone finish elementary school.
The next generation of women, she said, should live a different life. One that is free and uninterrupted by forced marriages.
Lilybeth herself was married off at 15, forcing her to leave school. She encourages Min and other girls in her village to enjoy school. Education, she said, empowers.
She also wants to teach girls not to have early pregnancies, which she herself experienced as a teen.
Min, as taught by her mother, is proud to be a T’boli child.
“We shouldn’t be ashamed even if others look down on us. We strive and support ourselves to survive,” Lilybeth explained.
Lilybeth, however, admits that life in her community is tough.
Poverty is a big problem, as well as the lack of access to healthcare and nutritious meals. In fact, Min is among the malnourished kids in her school.
Sustainable livelihood is scarce. Most villagers depend on corn farming, wherein income is low and irregular.
But children like Min, according to Lilybeth, could have a better shot at life and in overcoming such problems if and only they have a fair access to their needs.
Just like other Filipino kids, indigenous children like Min are deserving of quality education.
Girls and boys should never be robbed of their childhood.
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