Philippines: children lead advocacy on breastfeeding

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

By: Lanelyn Carillo, Communications Specialist; World Vision Philippines

After learning about the importance of breastfeeding, three young people started to spread the word throughout their community.

“This is how we will do it,” Jefferson, age 15, explains to a municipal mayor about how breastfeeding can be promoted among mothers in his town. Jefferson lives in Sorsogon, a province of the Philippines, located in the Bicol Region.

“We will consult with the mothers, then, we will present back to you the result of our consultation for your decision, action and guidance.” Impressed with Jefferson's presentation, the mayor smiles. She tells the youth that she expects to see them again - but next time with their proposed policy.

Jefferson, along with two of his friends, Jan and Francois, both14 years old, have also been talking to other local officials and health workers about the importance of breastfeeding for child health and nutrition.

World Vision partners with 13 villages in Sorsogon. These villages have a malnutrition rate at 5.78% - currently, more than 170 children in the area are malnourished.

Malnourishment can be prevented through exclusive breastfeeding

Jefferson learned about breastfeeding in a training facilitated by World Vision. ‘’We learned that a breastfed child is healthier and a mother’s milk is the most nutritious”, he says. 

Francois adds, “We used to think that children are thin because they’re not eating vegetables. Now, we know that one of the reasons children can be underweight is that they were not properly breastfeed as babies. It is a pity to see children who underperform in sports or academics merely because they never got the nutrition that they needed.”

Advocating for this cause is not easy. Visiting communities and talking to local officials can be a daunting task, say the three youth. But they are doing it, and they’re willing to learn.

“We are doing this because we know that we are the voice of the children in our community. We believe that we can do something even as young people,” Jan says.

“We are doing this because we know that we are the voice of the children in our community. We believe that we can do something even as young people”

Aside from breastfeeding, Jefferson, Francois and Jan also aim to educate community members and advocate for other health-behaviour changes such as: reducing teenage smoking and early pregnancy and encouraging community members to value health-education. 

“Children do bad things for their health because of several factors like peer pressure and family problems,” Jefferson says.

“Children will not do these things if they are properly guided and educated. We want to help them and we want to encourage youth who have left school to go back and finish,” Jan shares.

The three young advocates intend to mentor and train other youth to act as health advocates in the area; they want to invite more children to join their cause. “We hope that by the end of the year, we, the children, have formulated and submitted a policy,” Jan says.

This desire for community action is the foundation of the Child Health Now, World Vision’s first global campaign to tackle preventable child deaths and to improve child and maternal health around the world. Through combined international action in more than 45 countries we aim to shift the global political agenda, deliver support on the ground and inspire ordinary citizens, change makers in their own communities to action.