In the lead-up to Universal Children’s Day, 20 November, UNICEF Malaysia, together with several child-focused NGOs, is celebrating every child's right to participation.
20 November is Universal Children’s Day.
“We were all children once. And we all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind.”
-We the Children: End-decade review of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children, Report of the Secretary-General (2001)
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 20 November 2012 – In the lead-up to Universal Children’s Day, 20 November, UNICEF Malaysia, together with several child-focused NGOs in Malaysia, is celebrating every child’s right to participation. Under the banner of Children4Change, the month of November has been dedicated to honour, celebrate and recognize the important role children can play in societies today.
“The best possible spokespeople for children are children, themselves,” said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia Wivina Belmonte at the launch of the Children4Change initiative. “They are powerful advocates, and they are really worth listening to. Child participation is engagement in its truest form. When children are given an honest chance to speak and a platform to be listened to, they are the most eloquent, passionate speakers on issues that affect their daily lives.”
According to Vanessa, 16, “Children – they have limitless potential, and whatever they set their hearts to, I think that they need to be heard to be able to let them know that they can do it.”
At the heart of child participation is Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which upholds every child’s right to be heard.
Speaking at the launch, Ms. Belmonte stressed that children who participate in society make a difference in the world around them. Through their ideas, experience and insight, children are able to enrich the understanding of adults and make a constructive contribution.
“Children who are silenced cannot challenge violence and abuse when they are subjected to it. Their capacity to learn is restricted without the chance to question, challenge and debate. Policy-makers cannot identify the barriers to fulfilling children’s rights if they do not hear from children about the existence and nature of those barriers,” she added.
“I believe that disadvantaged children can also succeed if given the chance to participate,” says Faizal, 15.
Malaysian children make history and make a difference
For the first time ever, children in Malaysia are compiling a Children’s Report, supplementing the official Government report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, based in Geneva, Switzerland. The Committee monitors and reports on implementation of the CRC by governments that have ratified it. The Children’s Report is being compiled through workshops across the country and through an online survey. Almost 3,000 children have already contributed their views for this report.
Also lined up for the month is the Children for Child Protection Forum, which will bring together some 500 children from states across Malaysia to discuss five of their key protection concerns: bullying, Internet safety, emotional abuse, feeling safe at home and being safe in a relationship. As part of the Forum, a tweetchat (#MYTeenLove) will bring children and adults together in the Twittersphere for a meaningful discussion on how adolescents can best protect themselves from the pressures that may arise in their relationships.
Watch the Children4Change video produced by young people and featuring the voices and opinions of children.
Activities under the initiative
UNICEF Malaysia has created a dedicated microsite to promote the concept of child participation. The site includes a child rights gameshow-style quiz shared by UNICEF Canada and adapted for local audiences, a Children4Change video produced by young people and featuring the voices and opinions of children and the Be the Change Facebook application, through which children (and adults) can contribute their ideas on working together to create a world fit for children.
“Adults have an important role when it comes to child participation. Authentic and meaningful participation requires us to continue to seek out and listen to the perspectives and opinions of children, treat them seriously and support them as they develop their skills. In so doing, they not only contribute to their own lives, but to their communities as well, as active citizens developing their skills, confidence and capacity for democratic participation during childhood, with lifelong benefits,” said Ms. Belmonte.
Tim, 17, feels that “[a]dults have to be educated about children’s rights; they have to know that we, children, have rights."
Children4Change has mobilized the support of Malaysia’s national archer and Paralympic silver medalist Hasihin Sanawi and Malaysia’s most popular children’s television cartoon twins Upin & Ipin. Twenty-five organizations are involved in the month-long initiative, including nine NGOs, two corporations, two United Nations agencies and several youth and digital media outlets.