Human trafficking victimizes around 700,000 people worldwide each year. “In the Asia Pacific region, 43% are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation of whom 98% are women and girls,” revealed Atty. Katrina Legarda, a women’s rights advocate, in a symposium held last Oct. 20 in Mandaue City. Over 70 people attended including Zonta Club Cebu II members, officials from the City of Mandaue led by councilor Cynthia Remedio, alongside hospital, PNP, DILG representatives and students.
The symposium focused on the UN protocol of ending violence against women in observance of UN Day, the first of many events lined up under the partnership forged between Zonta Club Cebu II and the City of Mandaue. Driven by a common goal of protecting the rights of women and children and promoting their welfare in the city, the project Abay sa Kahayag was created.
True to its name which means guiding light and helping hand, Abay sa Kahayag In the initial stage shall undertake a public awareness campaign so that women victims are informed of their rights defined in RA 9710, the Magna Carta of Women. Eventually over the long term, there are plans to establish a One Stop Crisis Center in the Mandaue District Hospital which shall provide a refuge for victims with police, lawyers and medical professionals extending assistance. During the symposium, Dr. Bernadette Madrid, Executive Director of the Child Protection Foundation Network, Inc. and head of the Child Protection unit in the Philippine General Hospital shared her expertise in the process and requirements of setting up one.
In light of the alarming trend in human trafficking and sexual abuse, the local community must address gaps that allow this modern form of slavery to grow. Atty. Legarda further disclosed that fear of reprisal and stigma placed on victims of sexual abuse has resulted In the dearth of accurate statistics. It is estimated that between 12 to 27 million people are held in modern day slavery worldwide.
Cebu has not been spared with the discovery in recent times of cyber pornography operators clandestinely linked to pedophiles worldwide. Atty. Legarda shared that Cebu has been described by many stakeholders as a “champion of child protection” through Cebu Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC). Research findings identified Cebu as an “ideal” example because individuals, organizations and institutions have a strong collaboration. As a result, political will and engagement at the barangay level is quite high due to initiatives in community education coordinated with NGOS and civil society.
The Zonta Club Cebu II, an accredited NGO, through president Marilou Canizares stressed during the symposium its support of the campaign to end violence against women at the local level. On her part, the chairperson of Abay sa Kahayag, Dr. Elsa Basubas, said “the discussions today were thought provoking and calls us to take action, to do more. We now understand better what steps to take next for the welfare of women and children in Mandaue. Abay sa Kahayag is going in the right direction,”