Nurturing young people’s heart for human rights

Camp Giting: Human Rights Camp for Young Heroes was one of the youth camps funded by the GOJUST Human Rights Project. Photo: CYAN Pilipinas 

“There’s a radical — and wonderful — new idea here…that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world. It’s an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it seriously.”

– Deborah Meier, founder of the modern small schools movement

Many a sea change begins with young people. Recognizing this, the GOJUST Human Rights Project has involved youth leaders to create ripples and try turn the tide for human rights promotion in the Philippines. 

The GOJUST Human Rights Project has backed activities that have reached an aggregate total of a thousand youth leaders from across the country. These leaders represented school-based organizations, civil society organizations, youth community councils, community organizations, church-based organizations, artists’ groups, and media groups. 

With support from the Project, five youth camps were held in the National Capital Region, Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. These youth camps immersed participants in the tenets of human rights and inspired them to hammer out plans for collective action. 266 student and community leaders representing 154 organizations attended these camps. Meanwhile, 232 young people attended art workshops which melded creativity and human rights education. 

The camps lit a fire under the participants, inspiring them to cobble together a collective youth agenda for human rights. This agenda touched on respect for human rights and dignity; social justice and oppression; democracy and development; the fight for truth; among others. 

“Your worth comes from having your rights.’  Artwork by a participant to Camp Giting. Photo: CYAN Pilipinas 

The youth agenda was adopted in the following post-camp activities: 

– Talastasan 2019, a pre-election discussion on human rights with students of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna

– Human Rights in the Philippines: Thriving through Turbulent Times at the Cavite State University

– Business Law Conference 2019: Nation Building through Business and Human Rights 2019 at the De la Salle University, Manila

– A forum on careers in human rights forum at the AMA Computer College, Caloocan

– A human rights forum at the University of Cordillera, Mountain Province


Aside from these camps and forums, the tab for university-based post-camp activities and multi-sectoral youth activities was also picked up by the Project. Post-camp activities reached 1,901 youths. 

A gender and development seminar, in partnership with Manuel Enverga Foundation, Inc., was held in Candelaria, Quezon province. Youth Summit 2019, which mapped out youth perspectives on and involvement in social issues, as well as educated young people on leading in advocacies, was held in Bacolod City. 


In  Novaliches, Quezon City, Giting Kabataan (Brave Youth) was organized by De la Salle Araneta University, Sanggunian Kabataan Reform Colation, and Youth Resist. 


In San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, the Sanggunian Kabataan of Minuyan organized the Katipunan ng Kabataan Assembly, recognizing the pivotal part of young leaders in effective governance.  

Katipunan ng Kabataan Assembly, Bulacan. Photo: CYAN Pilipinas

Pushing for a human rights agenda in the 2019 elections was the objective of the Heroes’ Hub: Youth Empowerment Summit, held in 2018 by DAKILA and Active Vista. 

In an article in Agimat, DAKILA co-founder Leni Velasco said of the Heroes’ Hub: “As we confront a plethora of human rights violations, persistent attacks against our democracy, and unrelenting efforts to undermine the rule of law, it is paramount to involve the youth in the struggle against these oppression and injustices. They have the highest stake in this; they are the ones who shall take brunt of the national trauma our current political and societal turmoil bring.”

In 2019, #WeTheBrave, a coalition of youth leaders, emphasized sovereignty and the human rights vote in the 2019 midterm elections. The coalition presented a youth agenda, which called for free education, climate justice, mental health initiatives, reforms in the Sangguniang Kabataan, the provision for basic social services, the end to contractualization, an end to extrajudicial killings, among others. 

In 2020, as the country was besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic, youth-led CSO partners lost no time in initiating activities to help Filipino youth. CYAN Pilipinas mounted SalikSK: Online Consultation for Sangguniang Kabataan Frontliners, where they compiled and shared best practices for serving the youth sector while observing safety protocols. 

CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon discusses human rights with fellows of the 2018 Heroes’ Hub. Photo: Leni Velasco  

They also conducted Youth Resist Democracy Webinars to thresh out human rights issues under community quarantine protocols. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth Philippines launched the Philippine Interactive Dashboard to combat misinformation amid the pandemic. These activities showed the seamless integration of human rights into youth action. 

Human rights education has the ability to shape the still-supple moral universe of young people. These activities and partners funded by the GOJUST Human Rights Project have cultivated in young leaders a belief in the power of human rights for social transformation. 

#WeTheBrave Coalition comes out with a youth agenda in the 2019 elections. Photo: #WeTheBraveCoalition 

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