Seeing the child, not the disability
UNICEF launches annual report on children during roundtable on children and disabilities
KUALA LUMPUR, 3 June 2013 – Children with disabilities and their communities would both benefit if society focused on what those children can achieve, rather than what they cannot do, according to UNICEF's annual State of the World's Children's report, launched during a roundtable discussion in Malaysia today.
Concentrating on the abilities and potential of children with disabilities would create benefits for society as a whole, says the report released today.
"Children are not disabled because they cannot see, read or hear, they are disabled because society excludes them. Every child has something to contribute to the world, if given the chance," said Ms. Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia.
In line with its mandate to support the realisation of full rights for all children in Malaysia and in conjunction with the launch of its global report, UNICEF today organised a roundtable discussion with children, young people, representatives from governmental agencies and civil society organisations to discuss the challenges faced by children with disabilities in Malaysia.
"No one group has its rights compromised more consistently or more cruelly than children with disabilities," said Ms. Belmonte. "When they're not objects of pity, they're frequently targets of abuse. Globally, they are up to three to four times more likely to be subjected to violence than other children."
Inclusivity and support
Malaysia has shown global leadership by signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The challenge now is to shift from commitment to action.
"Discrimination on the grounds of disability is a form of oppression," the report says, noting that multiple deprivations lead to even greater exclusion for many children with disabilities.
"Children with disabilities often experience multiple challenges, including difficulty in accessing education and an increased risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. Left off birth registers and hidden behind closed doors, shut away in institutions and stigmatised, millions of children with disabilities are, too often, over-looked and under-estimated. They're not only excluded, they're forgotten," said Ms. Belmonte.
The objectives of today's roundtable in Kuala Lumpur were; to enable all parties to share the issues and policies already being implemented, to determine critical challenges in the fulfilment of rights for children with disabilities and most importantly, to identify concrete initiatives moving forward, based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as guiding documents.
UNICEF shared key facts and recommendations from a mapping exercise that was carried out last year to identify areas and actions of strategic importance to ensure the fulfillment of rights for children with disabilities in Malaysia.
The mapping exercise unveiled several key issues; namely gaps in policy frameworks and legal implementation, inadequate access to health and education, as well as the need for more pro-active early detection programmes.
Recognising the abilities of every child
With its annual report on children this year, UNICEF has positioned the global spotlight on a very special group of children.
"When you see the disability before the child, it is not only wrong for the child, but it deprives society of all that the child has to offer," said Ms. Belmonte.
The State of the World's Children 2013: Children with Disabilities report states that children with disabilities are the least likely to receive health care or go to school. They are among the most vulnerable particularly if they are hidden or put in institutions – as many are -- because of social stigma or the economic cost of raising them.
The combined result is that children with disabilities are among the most marginalised people in the world.
The report encourages children to become agents of change and features perspectives by young people with disabilities that have accomplished personal or professional goals or are striving to do so.
"We hope that UNICEF's Report and our roundtable will help push the agenda of children with disabilities forward in Malaysia, and serve to recognise the potential they have to live their lives to the fullest," said Ms Belmonte.
For further information, please contact:
Indra Kumari Nadchatram,
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
(+6.03) 2095 9157
+6012 292 6872
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
(+6.03) 2095 9154 ext. 2236
+6012 658 5160