A Pakistani teenager is this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner. Only 17 years old, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girl's right to education. She shares it with Kailash Satyarthi of India, also a children's right activist. Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Prize winner eclipsing Australian-born British scientist Lawrence Bragg who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Yousafzai and Satyarthi were picked for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education. The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism. The Nobel Committee calculated that there are 168 million child laborers around the world today.
Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she started writing for the BBC's Urdu service as an 11-year-old to campaign against the Taliban's efforts to deny women an education. Unable to return to Pakistan after her recovery, Yousafzai moved to Britain, setting up the Malala Fund and supporting local education advocacy groups with a focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya. The prize, worth about $1.1 million, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the award in his 1895 will. So young yet so accomplished in an area where many leaders who have sworn to serve the people would look the other way. Incidentally according to the study made by a government think tank – the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the number of children living in poverty in the Philippines continues to climb despite the country's recent economic gains. PIDS estimated that 13.4 million Filipino children are living in poverty and deprived of adequate food, shelter, health, and education. This is 36% or more than one-third of all Filipino children aged below 18.
Aside from growing numbers, the study said the severity of poverty among Filipino children has also worsened through the years.“Around 10 million of these children face at least two overlapping types of severe deprivation in basic amenities while an estimated .75 million face at least five kinds of deprivation simultaneously,” PIDS said. In 2009, the study found that 4 million children “did not have access to sanitary toilet facilities while 4 million did not have access to safe water. Another 260,000 kids did not have decent shelter.” PIDS said “there were 1.4 million children living in informal settlements, 6.5 million did not have access to electricity in their homes, and 3.4 million did not have means to access information.” In education, the study found that “the percentage of students who were able to complete elementary and secondary levels (has) hardly improved.” “Largely because of poverty, 5.5 million children are forced to work in 2011 to augment family income. These children are unable to pursue their education and this affects their ability to find better work opportunities in the future,” the study noted.
Actually we don't need these statistics to know that poverty continues to claim more child-victims every year. We just have to see them wandering in the streets asking for alms when they are supposed to be in school. We see them in garbage dump sites scavenging and sifting through garbage for anything worth salvaging for conversion into cash. We see them drop out from elementary and high school even if under the Constitution, elementary and high school education is free. Child labor despite laws banning it is not an uncommon reality in our midst. We need more Yousafzai to emerge in our midst to teach many of our leaders especially those in government that there is more meaning to a life dedicated to the cause of the young, the poor and the weak than building mansions and amassing wealth beyond what one needs. NOTES. On Wednesday, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that tested the faith and stability of the Boholanos will be exactly one year ago. There was so much to be done to rehabilitate and recover/rebuild lost houses, churches, livelihood, infrastructure and cultural treasures that were crushed. How much has been done so far? So much has been offered – money, material and human resources – by LGUs, national government, civil society organizations, humanitarian organizations and institutions both from national and international level. There should be no reason not to recover in all aspects including psychologically. The harrowing experience may not be forgotten but the pain that it brought should now be gone.
Some 8,000 houses were promised to be constructed by the provincial government in partnership with other institutions. As reported, only 30% has been accomplished and there must be good reason for it. What is important is that construction of the rest is going on and will go on until all the target number is accomplished. As for the Diocese of Tagbilaran, Fr. Warli Salise, director of the Social Action Center, told me that it has constructed more than 1,000 houses for the victims. With the anniversary of the Bohol earthquake, what lessons have we learned? Are they about physical preparedness? Perhaps, but material possessions and even life itself can perish without so much as a warning or a sign. Are the lessons about care for the planet and the environment? Again, rightly so, because we are just stewards of God's natural creations and He can always destroy it when man neglects it. Whatever they are, man's faith is always tested and only by the strength of his spirit can he find the answers.