Launch of “Profile of Children in Malaysia - The Implementation of Children’s Rights with Equity” - Keynote address by Datuk Dr. Rahamat Bivi bt. Yusoff
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, 11 December 2013
Ms. Wivina Belmonte,
Representative of United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Malaysia;
YBhg. Tan Sri/ Dato'/ Datin, Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.
Salam 1Malaysia and Good Morning.
Let me first welcome everyone to this launching event of the statistical booklet, "Profile of Children in Malaysia: Implementation of Children's Rights with Equity". I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate UNICEF Malaysia for taking the initiative in producing this statistical booklet and the efforts of all the people involved in compiling the data for the publication. It is heartening to note of UNICEF's recognition of Malaysia as its partner of over 49 years in promoting the well-being of children.
UNICEF's advocacy work on children is not unfamiliar to Malaysia. UNICEF has been supporting Malaysia in promoting the rights of children and we recognize and appreciate this contribution. Some of the programmes have become nationally-known and have been able to garner support from all walks of life, such as the fundraising activities, which has received the attention of 80,000 active pledged donors with the number increasing every year. The Upin and Ipin characters which are synonymous of children's cartoons from all parts of the country is the mascot of UNICEF. Through strategic partnership with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, UNICEF has implemented various workplace improvements for companies. This includes preparing day care at work place, support for breastfeeding mothers to continue work and vocational trainings.
UNICEF's presence has been beneficial in providing support for emerging children and women-related issues and in the exchange of ideas and information. In fact, the current Country Programme Action Plan 2011-2015, adopts similar concepts of the rolling plan under the Tenth Malaysia Plan to provide more flexibility and efficiency in programme planning. EPU welcomes these moves as it supports Government's effort in providing better care for children and women in Malaysia, especially in terms of policy analysis, assessment exercise and advocacy on new approaches. We will continue to leverage on UNICEF's extensive network of expertise in many areas related to children and women, and to learn from best practices and lessons learnt in other parts of the world, especially in the move towards a high income and developed country.
EPU and UNICEF have also been collaborating on a few initiatives. One of it is the Child Well-being Framework and Indicators. The intention of the framework is to help Malaysia systematically plan and implement national programmes that help with social and economic returns for the country. The national indicators framework would also expected to be used as a tool to better understand the situation of children as well as for budgeting and performance management purposes. Apart from this, another initiate is the Social Protection Programmes Mapping. This mapping of published information on social protection programmes will provide information on progress for the protection and fulfillment of children's rights in Malaysia. The database is being developed for public to assess.
This statistical publication is indeed another notable work of UNICEF. The "Profile of Children in Malaysia: Implementation of Children's Rights with Equity" provides a good reflection on the status of children in Malaysia and provides a baseline to monitor the progress towards national and international goals and targets aimed at promoting the wellbeing of all children. As Malaysia is the signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), it is a timely and relevant effort to evaluate the country's progress in achieving the vision of CRC. The report has tried at best to go beyond the conventional and provide an integrated picture of the state of children in Malaysia.
It is also interesting to note that the information in this statistical booklet is organized around children's rights related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and national priorities. It is presented and clustered into four groups, which includes right to adequate standard of living, right to life and basic health, right to early childhood development and education as well as right to identity, care and protection.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Investing in children is investing in the future of the country. Children are vibrant members of society and are the pulse of the nation's aspirations to achieve the developed status by 2020. The investment on children as the future of our nation is reflected well in the 10th Malaysia Plan, where emphasis is given on enhancing educational opportunities, better nutrition and healthcare as well as strengthening the family institution to ensure the security and safety of children. Apart from this, continuous improvement is also an ongoing effort to ensure the well-being of the children, which includes enhancing the quality of childcare services, strengthening support programmes and upgrading of existing welfare institutions.
Malaysia recognises the right of every child to an adequate standard of living, which includes child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Malaysia's attainment of MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, can be used in reflecting our achievements in children development. In tandem with the drop in the incidence of poverty, there are a huge fall in both the incidence and number of children living in poverty from 1989 to 2007 with overall poverty rate dropped from 19.9% in 1989 to 4.0% in 2007. Besides, the target of halving the incidence of under nutrition among under five-year old children has been met across all states in Malaysia.
As for basic health, over the years, various policies and programmes on health and well-being of children have been implemented. It includes, among others, the National Child Immunisation Policy, the Safe Motherhood Initiatives, the Malaysian Breastfeeding Policy, the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and the Early Intervention Program for Children with Disabilities. As Malaysia is well on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) by 2015, financial resources dedicated to the health sector has also increased in recent years, with Government expenditure on health reaching 7.4 per cent of the total Government expenditure in 2013. These commitments made certain targets achievable, such as the child mortality which is kept at low levels, infant mortality rate of 6.8 and under-5 mortality rate of 8.5 per 1,000 live births in 2010. Overall, child nutrition has also improved over time, though discrepancies between states remain.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Malaysia recognizes that education can address the best interests and on-going development of the whole child. With this in mind, the Government has strived to ensure that the education system is centred on the child and student outcomes. This includes giving due emphasis and attention to the cognitive development of the child and provided a national curriculum that addresses the wholesome development of the child's social, emotional, and physical attributes. Early childhood development is critical for children's cognitive and emotional development, as well as readiness for school and life. The Government has paid attention and taken specific steps to ensure that more children benefit from existing early childhood development programmes. Increasing number of children enrolled in pre-school education is being recorded. Subsequently, school enrolment remains high and stable at primary, lower secondary and upper secondary level.
Albeit the focus on the 9.5 million children in Malaysia, we recognize that there are challenges and this is where our partners such as UNICEF helps support the effort by the Government in ensuring a better life for children. For example access to facilities such as public health. Despite these challenges, the Government is committed in providing solutions to ensure a holistic development for children.
Overall, this statistical booklet reflects the analysis of key child-related indicators, assesses the implementation of children's rights in Malaysia and identifies existing inequalities and inequities within the country. As it relies mainly on publicly available data, there is limitation on the lack of access to raw data which hampers additional data analysis from being carried out. Nevertheless, it illustrates that gaps still exist in implementing children's rights and should add value to the Government's efforts for the relevant policy debates to take place to improve our current work in developing a nurturing environment for our children's development. It is hoped that the booklet is informative for all, particularly to address the needs of children and instigate us towards strategic actions. As for EPU, this publication is timely and would be of enormous benefit in terms of information and guide us better in the formulation of the 11th Malaysia Plan.
To conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the UNICEF team, led by Ms. Wivina Belmonte, and record our appreciation on the contribution towards a productive collaboration. It is with great pleasure that I launch the statistical booklet, "Profile of Children in Malaysia: Implementation of Children's Rights with Equity".