Supporters get on their bikes in support of gender equality

Dubai Cares boss joins in to boost life chances for young Filipinas.

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Marikina City, Philippines // Filipino cyclists took part in a two-kilometre bike ride to raise awareness for gender equality as part of the third annual UN International Day of the Girl Child.

The Bike Ride for Girls’ Rights was organised by Plan Philippines and Dubai Cares as part of their joint effort to improve education opportunities for marginalised girls living in two of the country’s poorest provinces.

“It’s very important in the Philippines because we are faced with several issues regarding the girl child, apart from age and gender, there’s so much discrimination going on and I think Plan would like to put a stop to that,” said Virgil Peduca, 29, one of the organisers of the event.

“Usually there are double standards, the skills of a girl are being undermined. Although those are little things, it adds up and impacts the overall personality of the girl. What we really want to happen is to promote awareness for the protection of the right for the girl child.”

Patrizha Martinez, a 28-year-old social media manager from nearby Quezon City, said more needed to be done to protect the rights of young girls and women.

“We just want to tell the world that whatever guys can do, girls can do too,” Ms Martinez said. “To really raise awareness, we have to do more, and change starts from small steps and I think this is a very good way to start.”

Although the Philippines is on on track to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals – eight targets set by the United Nations that include achieving universal primary education and promoting gender equality and empowering women – the country continues to struggle with high rates of teenage pregnancies and crushing poverty that forces girls to drop out of school.

Dubai Cares, together with Plan Philippines, is helping to address the education needs of underprivileged girls through its Real Assets through Improved Skills and Education for Adolescent Girls (Raise) project, which was officially launched on Friday.

The philanthropic UAE agency and international non-government organisation also held a concert at a mall in Muntinlupa City. Dubai Cares chief executive, Tariq Al Gurg, who took part in both events, said these advocacy campaigns were important for “building a hype towards giving rights for girls”.

“As you know there’s a huge population of women in the Philippines who are forced to start working at a much younger age than they’re supposed to and then you get problems like early marriages and early pregnancies [when] the main aim is for them to finish school, get a higher education,” said Mr Al Gurg, adding that the Philippines was “an important country to Dubai Cares.

“We have a large Filipino community and we always look to the largest communities that we have in the UAE and we try to cater to their needs when it comes to education.”

rpennington@thenational.ae