Mindanao’s youth speak out, show they matter

Published by rudy Date posted on March 19, 2011

SHE SHOULD have been staying home, doing her school assignments, watching TV or checking her Facebook account for it was a Saturday, but 16-year-old Dana Algabre did not mind not being able to do those things.

For a day, she and several of her classmates and schoolmates from the Tagum City Trade School endured listening to speakers old enough to be their elder siblings talk about various issues on Mindanao which most young people like them couldn’t care less about.

The students took part in the culmination of the Moving Mindanao Initiative (MMI), a youth-driven campaign to encourage young Mindanaoans to get meaningfully involved in shaping Mindanao based on their shared vision.

Organized by the Kids for Peace Foundation, a nongovernment organization which started out of the calls for peace following the conflict in Central Mindanao in 2000, MMI attempts to raise issues faced by the island’s youth and bring them to concerned government agencies by letting young people in Mindanao have their voice, according to James Ryan Buenacosa, MMI regional coordinator in Central Mindanao.

Survey

“We had found out the youth agenda was apparently left out in the crafting of the Mindanao Development Plan (MDP) 2020 by state policymakers so we put forth the youth agenda by identifying issues and concerns of the Mindanao youth, which is parallel to the MDP,” Buenacosa said.

He said the MMI conducted surveys in all of Mindanao’s six regions last November and from there, issues and concerns raised by the youth emerged—sexuality and gender issues on girls, vices and drug abuse among boys, lack of access to education and the negative influence of adults on the youth, among others.

Buenacosa said the monthlong survey, conducted through questionnaires given to 1,200 randomly selected respondents aged 15 to 25, revealed mixed views by the youth on certain issues.

For example, 35 percent of the respondents from both sexes say adults considered them (young people) as good-for-nothing and useless, while at least 91 percent of male and female respondents believe they still can do more for the society if given a chance.

For MMI staffer Michael Balabagan, the overwhelming number of youth who believe they still can do more for the country (other than just being pasaway to the adults) means a lot in making their voice heard by government leaders and decision-makers.

Balabagan said the survey intends to craft policies and programs responsive to the youth’s needs and goals in a 20-year period, starting in 2010 to 2030.

“It’s really very unfair on our part when adults view us as being useless,” the second year high school student Algabre said. “We really do care for the country … They should give us a chance and we will show them the best we can do for this country.”

Balabagan said the survey “would help empower the youth and convince the government to help them” by crafting programs which address youth concerns in Mindanao.

Earl Saavedra, Mindanao commissioner of the National Youth Commission, acknowledged the government has still a lot to do for the youth in the region.

He said his office existed for the very reason of “making sure equal benefits of the youth in Luzon and Visayas are also entitled to the youth of Mindanao.”

Big Books

He said problems of the youth in the region such as poverty and lack of access to education contribute to conflicts and that peace consultations do not help if root causes of the strife were not being addressed.

As part of the movement’s advocacy, it unveiled to the public its creative projects—Big Books, film and photographs.

The Big Books are stories about Mindanao told and written by the young men and women themselves.

The books are 100 percent made by the youth themselves, with them telling their own stories and drawing the illustrations in those books, said Rosan Aliya Agbon, who, as a 12-year-old perplexed by the merciless murder of children during the government’s all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Central Mindanao, founded the Kids for Peace Foundation 11 years ago.

Called “The Back Stories (The Whys of War),” the 11-book collection mirrors the experiences of its authors, who as young people, endured poverty, violence, intense biases, displacement due to economic aggression and other issues which have stoked the flames of conflict and war in Mindanao.

Issues

Agbon said the books were painstakingly put together by the young authors, after a seminar-workshop in Bukidnon last year and in Cagayan de Oro City last month, where the writers were taught how to sift through their various experiences and weave them into interesting narratives.

“They were so eager that some of them did the book even during a brownout, using the faint light from their cell phones as lamps,” a trainer for the workshop said. –Frinston Lim, Inquirer Mindanao

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