July 11, 2016
Speech of Vice President Leni Robredo delivered by Aika Robredo for the World Population Day 2016, Ninoy Aquino Stadium, Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
There are three people on earth I value most. Just like you, they are young girls. They are silly and funny and protective and sweet.
I learn a lot from them, like how to use “charot” in a sentence and how to wear my clothes right. I also learn a lot about kindness, authenticity, and depth from these three girls.
They had a hard time at first when I was faced with the decision to run for the second-highest position in the land.
But once they understood, they gave their full support. They call it “buwis-buhay”; I call it love and sacrifice.
They are my three daughters Aika, Tricia, and Jillian.
Young girls have a power all their own. There is much potential in each one of you! As they say, you save a girl and you save a generation.
And in our nation today, the numbers show that the youth —all of you— will become a major social and economic force in the next 45 years. This is called the demographic dividend.
As majority of our population enters the ages of 15 to 24 years old, and they become “effective workers” more than “effective consumers”, the number of people who are employed and earn more income overtake the number of people who are dependent on them.
In other words, mas maraming kabataan ang kumikita sa trabaho kesa umaasa sa kita ng iba.
This phenomenon, called the demographic dividend is the one thing that is expected to propel our country into becoming the 17th biggest economy in the world by 2050, leapfrogging over 27 countries. Imagine that, dear young ones.
Are you ready to see that happening in our country?
But there are conditions. The youth must be gainfully employed (may maayos na trabaho). And for that to happen, the youth, especially young girls, must be well-educated and healthy.
Education is key. Do not underestimate the power of a good education. Going to school every day with your big books, dealing with the pressure of homework and projects, faced with the emotional ups and downs of seeing (and not seeing) your crushes, can sometimes feel like the worst years of your life.
But remember this, my dear young ones: these years are the best time to expand your minds and prepare you for the rest of your life.
Every knowledge stored in your mental hard drive will help you become a cooler version of yourself. Study hard. Listen to your teachers well. Strive for excellence in all that you do. Make this time count!
Speaking of crushes, I remember how Jesse was so protective of his sisters when they were in that stage of being courted by boys.
Once, his sister was entertaining a guy at home. Jesse was clearly a stickler for rules, so when the clock hit ten o ‘clock and his sister’s suitor hasn’t left yet, you know what he did? He got the banig out, tapos naglatag sya sa sala.
There is a time and place for romantic love. Finding your truest love is one of the most important aspects of a life well-lived. But it is important to find yourself first, before you give yourself to somebody else.
And when you do, your SO (significant other) must love you enough to give you space to help you keep on redefining yourself and letting you reach your truest potential.
I myself married young. After I graduated from college, I met Jesse and within a couple of months, he was already asking for my hand in marriage.
But even after I had my first daughter, he supported me in my desire to become a lawyer. He supported me in all my activities as alternative lawyer to the masses. He gave me space to be excellent in what I do. We were a great team.
Remember what our youth need to be, so that we can harvest this demographic dividend. You need to be educated well, get a good job, and marry at the right time.
Each one of you matters. Each of your decision counts. And when all of you together achieve this status, we—as a country—will be able to harvest this demographic dividend.
That window of demographic dividend will not be open to us forever. Its opening is fleeting, said the United Nations. We must hit the right ratio of youth who are gainfully employed and well educated versus those who aren’t, for us to actualize the dream of being the 17th biggest economy in the world by 2050.
Will you be a force for good in our country? Please say yes. Your individual choices become our national future. Your daily acts that show you are willing to work hard, study hard, act responsibly, strive hard to claim that awesome future—put all together—is the stuff that will make our country proud and strong.
More than any heroic action, your integrity makes you future nation builders and leaders of this country. I believe your generation is ready to take the reins of leadership in the Philippines.
During my term in Congress, I am proud to say that we took a huge step toward enabling your generation to be a part of governance. We made youth participation in the government a reality by instituting the Sangunian Kabataan Law. The law gives the youth a voice in policy making in their respective localities and gives them an avenue to air out concerns. This law also promoted inclusivity when it allowed people 15 years old to 30 years old to vote and 18 years old to 24 years old to run.
Youth participation, however, does not end in the realm of politics. We were able to institute the Government Internship Program wherein our adolescent need not run to be a part of government.
In the program, you will experience what it is like to work in government and see how the government works. This program promotes both participation and education for those who will eventually take over.
We also fully supported the K-12 law and program of the Department of Education. As a mother with a daughter undergoing the program, I can personally see how it will benefit Jillian in the future. When she graduates, Jill will have sufficient skills and specialties which will help her succeed in later life.
Aside from enriching the minds of our youth, we must also give attention to their health. It is alarming that our country’s unwanted and teenage pregnancies have been increasing in previous years.
To address this issue, we must ensure that the proper knowledge is given to our adolescents. The recently passed RH Law includes reproductive health in each school’s curriculum.
Education is the silver bullet. I repeat: make these years count. Study hard. There is no limit to excellence—not age, not gender.
Embrace the soft power of your femininity. There is strength in being a girl. You are the hope for our nation’s transformation. Make us proud!