Press Release
October 13, 2019


With the theme "GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable," this year's International Day of the Girl coincides with the silver anniversary of the Beijing Declaration that has united millions from all over the world in recognition of the rights of women and girls everywhere.

My 14-year-old grandniece in Iriga, Lheslie de Lima, comes to mind as a girl who is "unstoppable". Rather than pay for a ride to school, she runs along the railroad. In a hurry to help with household chores, she runs too on her way back home. Lheslie always runs with the soles of her feet touching the ground. Since winning her first gold medal in the 2018 Palarong Pambansa for a 3,000-meter event, the young Bicolana runner has been breaking records, which she has all done while barefoot.

I also met this "unscripted" girl, Shibby de Guzman, three years ago when I went to her school to talk about human rights and democracy. She first caught my attention for wearing a cardboard sign that says, "We all could be drug pushers", alluding to those warnings left on the bodies of slain drug suspects. Despite the initial bashing and criticisms, she was undeterred and continued to speak out against injustices. Soon after, a 14-year-old Shibby was named among TIME's Most Influential Teens of 2017.

I share Lheslie's and Shibby's stories, knowing their courage and dedication can inspire millions of girls in the Philippines and the rest of the world. However, so much still needs to be done in my country to provide equal opportunities and create safe spaces for girls.

Recently, we learned of the news about lewd photos of female high school students posted by their schoolmates, about the rape of a girl being videographed, about young daughters forced to become child brides in conflict-stricken Marawi, and the trafficking and prostitution of young girls rampant through online transactions.

Under the government's brutal campaign against drugs, we also heard about the fate of a 15-year-old girl who was raped by a policeman in exchange for her and her relatives' freedom. While more than 100 children have died in the war on drugs, including three-year-old Myca Ulpina and five-year-old Danica May Garcia, thousands more have become motherless and/or fatherless. As in the case of "Karla," she was 10 when she witnessed how her father was killed by masked gunmen.

Not only should these stories outrage us, but more so, these should compel each and every one of us to rally for the rights of our girls and raise awareness about their situation. Their issues should also be our issues. Let us empower our young girls to freely express themselves so they can have full and secure lives free from fear, intimidation, harassment, and discrimination.

Our girls are strong, smart, beautiful, and brave. I join the rest of the international community in celebrating their worth and in promoting the improvement of their status towards a more humane, safe and just world.


PNP Custodial Center, Camp Crame

11 October 2019

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