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DSWD, development partners join hands to curb child marriage

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is working with the members of the newly created Committee on Child Early and Forced Marriage and Unions (CEFMU) under the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) for a unified campaign to prevent early marriage and unions as well as changing the norms that perpetuate the harmful practice of child marriage.

“As part of our efforts to help curb child marriages, the DSWD, through its program development arm— the Social Technology Bureau— is working with development partners in a series of workshops toward the co-creation and model-building of a Child Protection Systems Strengthening (CPSS) for CEFMU,” Asst. Secretary for Disaster Response and Management Group Irene Dumlao said on Tuesday (April 30).

These DSWD partners include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), civil society organizations such as Oxfam Pilipinas, government agencies, and local government units (LGUs).

Asst. Secretary Dumlao, who is also the DSWD spokesperson, said the Department hosted a consultation workshop from April 23 to 26 in Surigao City to facilitate the model-building of a CPSS for CEFMU.

A similar workshop was held from April 15 to 18 in Sagada, Mountain Province which involved youth, parents, community leaders, and implementers, in the design thinking process for social technology development.

Asst. Secretary Dumlao said the workshops are in support of the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11596, otherwise known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties for Violations Thereof.”

“These efforts are also toward the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal No. 5.3. or lowering the proportion of women who were married before 18, and before 15 years of age,” Asst. Secretary Dumlao pointed out.

The result of the workshops will form part of the social technology or model of intervention for CEFMU that will be designed, pilot-tested, and evaluated, together with the outputs from the other areas, specifically in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Region VIII (Eastern Visayas), and with the learning exchange in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“To help craft the model of intervention for victims of CEFMU, former members of the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Incorporated (SBSI), children and youth representatives, and the LGU of Socorro were invited to the Surigao City workshop since they have first-hand experiences in dealing with arranged child marriages and unions. They will also serve as one of the pilot areas for the implementation of the CPSS model,” the DSWD spokesperson explained.

Other participants in the activity were members of youth organizations, representatives from national line agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), Commission on Population Development (CPD), DSWD Program Management Bureau, and the DSWD Field Offices.

RA No. 11596 was signed into law on December 10, 2021. The DSWD is tasked to oversee the implementation of the law and provide different preventive, rehabilitative and developmental programs and services, including those that address the prevalence of child marriage. The Department also plays an active role in awareness campaigns on the negative effects of child marriage.

Under the law, any person who performs or officiates a child marriage will face imprisonment of up to 12 years and a fine of not less than Php50,000. The law also provides that any person who causes, fixes, facilitates, or arranges a child marriage will be imprisoned for up to 12 years.

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