Children's advocacies have always been close to Daphne Oseña-Paez's heart, so it was really no surprise when she agreed to become the Special Advocate for Children of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Philippines back in 2009. “They approached me because of my commitment to breast-feeding,” says the mother of three who is proud to have breast-fed her daughters when they were still babies. “I was just a happy breast-feeding mom, and I was just so, so amazed with it that I kept writing about it. I didn’t really know the bigger issues of breast-feeding at that time.”

Her first field visit was in February 2010, a month before she was officially inducted to become a UNICEF representative, where she shared her own experiences as a breast-feeding mother to the mothers in the community.

“When I met with UNICEF, I realized that not only is it such a beautiful bond between mother and child, it really is an issue of health. It gives your child the best start in life. Babies, children who are breast-fed—studies show that they have higher IQs,” says Daphne.

“Your child doesn’t need water or supplements, so if you can only imagine what this means for a woman in the most disadvantaged areas or a woman in an emergency situation. They don’t need water, you know, they won’t need to expose their child to potential danger, so mother’s milk is complete, it’s pure, it’s free, it’s perfect and that’s the message that we advocate.”

But while known for her staunch support of children’s rights, the TV host confesses that she didn’t always start out as a humanitarian. Born in the Philippines but raised in Canada, Daphne says that she really had no intention of coming back to her home country “because I was already in Canada and my work was urban planning, but things led me to the Philippines.”

The company, where she worked as an urban planner at, had a project in the Philippines. Two years later, they sent her to live in Guimaras where she was first exposed to a lot of the country’s women’s and children’s issues. “I lived for one year in one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines,” she exclaims. But it was also through her work that she met a “happy accident” that gave her a chance to work in Philippine media.

“It is like coming full circle, going back to my roots,” Daphne says. “I may not have started as a humanitarian, I was a professional urban planner, but it has just given me my voice and my chance to touch people’s lives.

These days, Daphne can be seen more often in Manila--although she does go back to Canada from time to time (as of the interview, she has just returned from a 10-week vacation there)--and if her schedule permits, she also joins UNICEF in their field visits (her last trip was to the Typhoon Pablo-ravaged Davao Oriental). And while she often works from home, her daughters do have an idea of the role she plays in changing the local landscape for society’s most marginalized sectors. In fact, her 10-year-old is already raring to work at UNICEF!

“Both my husband and I are in media, so they’re quite exposed, but at the same time, we try to give them, like I said, I make them play outside every day if they can, so we want them to be just like regular kids and not to have the weight of the world on their shoulders,” says Daphne. Still, she wants to “be able to raise children who are eventually going to be adults who can make a difference as well in other people’s lives.”

Just last month, Daphne renewed her contract with UNICEF. She also took the opportunity to announce her plans for this year’s UNICEF Auction for Action, a fundraising event that she began in 2011. “We are excited for this year’s auction. It will be bigger and better with more artists from various fields pitching in to raise funds for children.”

(Photo courtesy of UNICEF Philippines)

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