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Promotion of child protection and issues on gender-based violence addressed in BARMM

An inter-agency working group that seeks to promote child protection and address issues related to gender-based violence is in the process of being instituted to the newly formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), with Balay Rehabilitation Center as a member of its core group. The working group will be formally known as the Joint Regional Child Protection and Gender-based Violence Working Group or the Joint JRCPGBVWG.

According to Glen Larot, Balay’s representative to the working group, the initiative was in line with the ‘cluster approach’ proposed by the United Nations and adopted by the Philippine disaster risk reduction and management law. The cluster approach calls for, among others, an inter—agency collaboration to prevent human rights violations and provide timely and adequate response for children and women in times of humanitarian emergencies.

Larot pointed out that “effective prevention and response to gender-based violence and child protection issues require multi-sectoral coordinated action among health and social services actors, legal, human rights and security sectors and the community. Hence, establishing a coordination mechanism for the prevention of violence and protection of children and women will help ensure more responsible and responsive action in all stages of the emergency”.

As an initiative headed by the Ministry of Social Services in the BARMM, the joint working group is committed to protect women and girls, men and boys, and other at-risk groups from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and gender-based violence in areas under the jurisdiction of the new Bangsamoro government established through the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will serve as the co-convener for the child protection concerns, while the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will be the co-convener for gender-based violence issues. 

Other members of its core group are the Community and Family Services International, Nonviolent Peaceforce Philippines, Plan International, BRAC Philippines, Save the Children, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Population Fund, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Youth of the Philippines-Women.

The regional offices of government agencies concerned with social welfare and development, health, and human rights in Northern Mindanao and the SOCSKSARGEN Region, including those involved in the rehabilitation of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, will become members of the joint working group.

Once fully established, the Joint Regional Child Protection and Gender-based Violence Working Group in BARMM will provide technical guidance and capacity support to regional and local interagency protection mechanisms. Its functions will include the provision of guidance on standards, national guidelines and tools for child protection and gender-based violence responses in emergencies, i.e. mental health and psychosocial support, interventions in humanitarian actions, child-friendly spaces (CFS) and women-friendly spaces (WFS), and monitoring and reporting mechanisms (MRM) on grave child rights violations (GCRVs). It will also promote the adaptation of the existing Guidelines in the Establishment and Management of a Referral System in order to provide timely life-saving interventions to child protection and gender-based violence survivors, especially in emergencies.