Press Release
October 11, 2019

De Lima rallies for equal rights, protection for girls

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called on her fellow Filipinos to rally for equal rights and protection for the girls and let their voices be heard amid the challenges women and children face under the present government.

In her message on International Day of the Girl today (Oct. 11), De Lima said the unprecedented abuses and unjust killings of innocent girls under the hands of authorities and civilians in the country should not only outrage the Filipino public but also compel them to rally for their rights and raise awareness about their situation.

"Their [girls] 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," she said.

"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," she added.

Since 2012, Oct. 11 has been observed as the International Day of the Girl, which "aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights."

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.

In raising awareness for the plight of girls in the Philippines, De Lima recalled the fate of the innocent girls who were literally caught in the barrage since Mr. Duterte launched his all-out war on drugs in 2016 and that of other young souls who have suffered because of the reigning culture of violence and impunity in the country.

"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," she said.

"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," she added.

To inspire many girls across the world to speak up against abuses and shine in their own ways, De Lima also recalled and recognized the achievements of girls who have inspired Filipinos for their courage and dedication, including St. Scholastica's College student Shibby de Guzman and the senator's grandniece Lheslie de Lima.

"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," she shared.

De Lima remembered to have met Shibby in 2016 when the Senator gave talks about human rights and democracy in St. Scholastica's College, adding that Shibby first caught her 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.

On her grandniece, De Lima proudly said that "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."

While they have different experiences, the lady Senator from Bicol said she shares the stories of Shibby and Lheslie because "their courage and dedication can inspire millions of girls in the Philippines and the rest of the world."

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