United for UNICEF: Manchester United defend rights of vulnerable children
Premier League champions kick off their Asia Tour 2009 in Malaysia by striking home a powerful message about protecting children from HIV.
KUALA LUMPUR, 17 July 2009 - Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Federico Macheda as well as Manchester United Foundation Chief Executive John Shiels took time out of the club's pre-season tour of Asia today to join the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the club's global charity, to champion the rights of marginalised children in Malaysia and highlight their increased vulnerability to HIV.
Visiting Positive Living today – a program under the community-based organisation PT Foundation – the group spent time with ten children from vulnerable backgrounds, including children from families affected by HIV and AIDS, whose parents are sex workers or drug users, as well as street children and refugee children.
Despite Malaysia’s progress for children in health and education, many still find themselves living on the margins of society as a result of public discrimination, stigma and prejudice. As a result, these marginalised children are in the highest risk category for HIV infection.
Stark realities of vulnerable children
Joined by the players for an intimate discussion, the children shared their feelings, dreams and daily life experiences along with revealing the stark differences in the lives of young people shadowed by HIV, drug abuse, violence, exploitation and displacement.
Asha* a 15-year old girl whose father died as a result of AIDS recalled the day her mother revealed her status. “When my mother told me that she was HIV positive, I panicked and didn’t know what to do. I could not accept it.”
After her father died, Asha and her mother were forced to move from their home and community, a result of discrimination suffered from friends and family, “After my father passed away everyone hated my mother. Everyone hurt her.”
All children should be treated equally
Through their visit, the Manchester United players aim to highlight the facts about HIV, to help break down the prejudice and stigma faced by marginalised children and to advocate for their right to be treated fairly.
UNICEF Ambassador Ryan Giggs said: “Its tragic to hear how marginalised children and those affected by HIV suffer as a result of stigma. But by joining these children here today and showing our support we hope to send out a powerful message; that all children, no matter their background, where they live or their HIV status should be treated equally.”
UNICEF is working with the government and partners to challenge discrimination, to protect children, reduce stigma and promote awareness of these issues including HIV prevention.
Fighting stigma is vital
Patrice Evra added: “Fighting against stigma is a vital step in protecting marginalised children. To do this we must all learn the facts about HIV and AIDS - you cannot get HIV by playing with children who are HIV positive. All children have the right to be treated fairly, and we support UNICEF’s work to ensure this.”
Today’s UNICEF visit represents the latest in the groundbreaking ten year ‘United for UNICEF’ partnership between Manchester United and UNICEF, and highlights the club's continuing commitment to UNICEF’s 'Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS' global campaign. Since 1999 the partnership has raised over US$ 3.75 million (approximately RM 13 million) benefiting over 1.5 million children worldwide. In 2007, the club donated more than US$ 150,000 (RM 500,000) to UNICEF Malaysia for HIV and AIDS youth-prevention programs.
“Lasting solutions for the next generation must address both protection from HIV and protection of children's rights," said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam, Mr Youssouf Oomar. "These rights are not merely the benefit of a few but the entitlement of all children, regardless of their identity, status, geographical location or gender."
The 10-year anniversary coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child this year.
* Names have been changed to protect the children’s identities...............................................................................................
NOTE TO EDITOR:
ABOUT ‘United for UNICEF’ Partnership
ABOUT Positive Living
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Indra Kumari Nadchatram
Shiao Eek, Tee
Unite against AIDS
• The Malaysian Launch
Newsline: United for UNICEF
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