| Ainul Huda Mohamed Saaid |
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – While children are considered the greatest gift for the parents and an invaluable asset for the nation’s future, their rights and well-being may have been taken for granted.
The rising number of babies being abandoned, children being abused physically and sexually and acts of criminality against children serves as a grim reminder of the sad fate that children in Malaysia face today.
UNICEF’s website indicates that child abuse is on the rise in Malaysia. The Malay daily Utusan Malaysia earlier this year highlighted that 122 children aged 12 and below were murdered over the last five years, mostly in sexual related crimes.
Malaysians will still recall the cruel fate that befell Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, 7, of Wangsa Maju in 2007. Less then a year later Sharlinie Mohd Nashar, 5, of Kampung Medan went missing and is yet to be found. Both believed to be the victims of sexual predators.
Earlier this year ‘caring’ Malaysians were shocked to learn that disabled teenager Muhammad Firdaus Dullah was abandoned by his own mother. It was pitiful that the skinny and bloated Muhammad Firdaus had to live on squalid condition on his own with his mother only showing up on and off.
Again Malaysians were jolted by reports in the media that a three-year old was tied up by his babysitter.
Looking at all these makes one wonder whether there is still hope for humanity, especially for the vulnerable children who are incapable of defending themselves.
Malaysian Paediatric Association committee member Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail believes in spite of the pessimistic scenario there was still hope.
“That is why we need to continue educating parents and society about issues relating to children. Media plays an important role in bringing up these issues and promoting the good values,” he said during the My Promise To Children Campaign Launch ceremony recently.
The campaign calls upon the concerned public to make their pledge at the campaign website www.mypromisetochildren.org or through the My Promise To Children application that could be downloaded via smart phone.
The campaign is to activate the United Nation’s 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as educating the public on issues relating to children such as violence against children, cybersafe communication in schools, human rights, education and health.
Spearheaded by several Malaysian civil society organisations the campaign that begun on Nov 20 would extend to March 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of Malaysia’s accession to the CRC. (Malaysia acceded to CRC on Feb 17, 1995).
Several celebrities namely actor/screenwriter Bront Palaraea (Nasrul Suhaimin Saifuddin), performer/singer Sasi the Don and host Hunny Madu have also joined the campaign.
According to CRC, children have rights to health, protection and equal opportunity, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religious belief, economic status, geographic location or disability.
UNICEF representative to Malaysia Wivina Belmonte pointed out that these rights have been brought to life not just by declaration, intention or words, but through commitment, investment, and action.
“However, before action can take place we need knowledge. While governments are primarily responsible for protecting these rights for all children, families clearly have a vital role.
“Society as a whole has a responsibility too in protecting and upholding children’s rights. But we can only really do our part if we understand that children actually have these rights,” said Belmonte in the same event.
She added that children develop best when their families or guardians give them love, understanding and happiness.