Unicef PH starts rollout of online messaging tool in Bangsamoro region

Unicef Philippines, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Philippines, the Office on the Bangsamoro Youth Affairs, and its partners have launched “U-Report” in the Philippines beginning in the Bangsamoro region.

Bangsamoro youth register for U-Report and answer questions on what the BARMM government should prioritize when it comes to children and youth issues. To date, there are around 3,200 U-Reporters in BARMM. (Credit: Rein Navarro, VSO Philippines)

U-Report is an online platform developed and used globally by Unicef to support adolescent and youth engagement and participation.

Created by Unicef, U-Report is a social messaging tool and data collection system to improve adolescent and youth citizen engagement, inform leaders, and foster positive change.

It uses polls and alerts, collecting real-time responses for raising adolescents and young people’s voices that can guide in policy development and social accountability. It includes real-time polling as one of its key functions.

The U-Report platform has reached communities in 54 countries around the world with almost seven million responders globally since it was first launched in 2011.

The launch of U-Report in the Philippines comes as Unicef and partners celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history that has helped transform children’s lives around the world.

“The launch of U-Report in the Philippines, in particular in the Bangsamoro Region comes at an important time. We in Unicef believe that young people’s ideas, passions and innovations could transform the future of the Bangsamoro people. For this to happen, children and youth  must be consulted, empowered and equipped to make informed decisions, especially on matters affecting their health, well-being and prospects for the future,” said Andrew Morris, Unicef Philippines chief of field office in Mindanao.

U-Report Philippines is managed by a U-Report Steering Committee with representation from adolescent and young people. In addition to serving as U-Reporters, adolescents and young people, along with other members of the steering committee, make sure that poll questions asked to U-Reporters are relevant, appropriate and useful.

“U-Report is an exciting innovation to help us understand the concerns of youth and adolescents in BARMM, especially now that we are developing the Bangsamoro Youth Agenda. This tool can foster open communication and make sure that we prioritize issues that children and youth are passionate about,” Dr. Marjanie Mimbantas Macasalong, executive director of the Office on the Bangsamoro Youth Affairs (OBYA) said.

“VSO’s youth intervention focuses on mobilizing young change makers for greater social cohesion and durable peace in the Bangsamoro.  We hope to develop youth volunteers who can work with their communities  to give them a voice and to hold duty bearers to account, monitor development progress, and ensure that policy makers consider the needs of adolescents and young people,” Arlene Mahinay, VSO Philippines head of program, said.”

U-Report relies on volunteer U-Reporters to take an active role and provide critical information to decision makers on issues affecting their communities through polls. It is also a valuable tool for sharing information through message alerts.

To become a U-Reporter, Bangsamoro youth only need to log into their Facebook accounts, look for the U-Report Philippines page, open the messenger app, and click “join.” Upon joining, U-Reporters can start participating in polls and send reports.

“Through U-Report, we can make our voices heard by our leaders and decision-makers in the Bangsamoro.  We hope that our Bangsamoro leaders will listen, take notice, and act on issues that are important to the young people,” said Salic Macaraob, 21 years old, a youth leader from Marawi City.

U-Report’s effectiveness has been seen in various programs around the world.

In Indonesia, 4,000 U-Reporters shared that most young people who had become victims of violence did not receive any form of counselling and 15 percent had no idea where to report violence if they witness it or experience it themselves. Results have been directly shared with the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection and 17 other relevant government agencies in Indonesia.

In Uganda, every Member of Parliament has signed up for U-Report to monitor and respond to what young people in their districts are saying about key issues.  Some leaders have used it to strengthen immunization and other health campaigns.

In Sierra Leone during the collapse of Sugar Loaf Mountain in the city of Freetown, U-Report sent out alerts and updates about various ways to stay safe and access help.

In Pakistan, Unicef and U-Report in Pakistan launched the Menstrual Hygiene Innovation Challenge. A U-Report poll revealed that 49% of young girls had no knowledge of menstruation prior to their first period and that 23% of girls would most like to learn about menstruation in school.

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