Life af­ter dis­en­gag­ing from the MILF

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - AMIRAH Amirah*, 17, is among those dis­en­gaged from the MILF-BIAF, un­der the UN-MILF Ac­tion Plan, to en­sure that chil­dren are not re­cruited and used in armed con­flict.

It has only been a year since I was counted among the chil­dren who were dis­en­gaged from the Moro Islamic Lib­er­a­tion Front-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF). The dis­en­gage­ment process is part of the com­ple­tion of the United Na­tions and MILF Ac­tion Plan to en­sure that chil­dren are not re­cruited and used in armed con­flict.

I amthank­ful that the Com­mu­nity Fam­ily Ser­vices In­ter­na­tional (CFSI), MILF Fo­cal Points and Unicef are mon­i­tor­ing the progress of chil­dren and fam­i­lies that were dis­en­gaged from the MILF-BIAF.

When I heard that CFSI was look­ing for vol­un­teers to help in this project, I im­me­di­ately signed up, be­liev­ing that this would help not only me, but also other dis­en­gaged chil­dren. With CFSI, I trained to be­come a para-so­cial worker, which gave me hope and self-con­fi­dence. I learned to talk to dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple, to in­ter­view them, to col­lect in­for­ma­tion and to write re­ports.

I was timid at first, but I slowly learned to open up and even be hu­mor­ous; peo­ple no longer had to draw me out of my shell. Things I learned from my stud­ies also greatly boosted my self­con­fi­dence. I am happy that I gained more friends, in­clud­ing those out­side of my so­cial cir­cle.

I wanted so much to be a para-so­cial worker be­cause, first, I wanted to help my fam­ily and my com­mu­nity. Sec­ond, I be­lieve help­ing other peo­ple is a way to earn God’s re­ward. And, as a dis­en­gaged child my­self, I know that oth­ers also dream of get­ting a schol­ar­ship and go­ing to school.

At present, I am able to go back to for­mal school and to a madrassa, or Ara­bic school. I’m 17 years old now and study­ing in Grade 8. In the madrassa where I am in Grade 5, I at­tend classes every Fri­day and Satur­day.

Like other chil­dren in my vil­lage, we walk for three hours to get to school. There is only one jeep­ney that plies our route due to the dis­tance and poor road con­di­tions. De­spite th­ese dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, I still work hard so that I can fin­ish school.

I wish to be of help to my fam­ily and so­ci­ety, that they will be given liveli­hood as­sis­tance to meet their needs. Every time I re­ceive my al­lowance, I give most to my mother, who ap­por­tions it ac­cord­ing to the daily fam­ily needs, while the rest goes to myschool­ing.

I dream that I will fin­ish school and be­come a po­lice of­fi­cer. If given the chance to be granted a schol­ar­ship, I will pur­sue a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in crim­i­nol­ogy. I also dream that my si­b­lings get to go back to col­lege; they had to stop go­ing to school be­cause we couldn’t af­ford it. I also wish that my par­ents will have a liveli­hood. Fi­nally, I dream that one day I will be­come an

uz­ta­dia or a hafi­dah (Qu­ranic scholar/ed­u­ca­tor). *This is not the real name to pro­tect the writer’s pri­vacy.

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