Children with disabilities participate in the Borneo International Marathon
Kota Kinabalu, 7 May 2017 – Today over 10,000 people put on their running shoes and ran alongside hundreds of children with disabilities in Kota Kinabalu’s waterfront to promote a more inclusive society for all.
This year the Borneo International Marathon, organised in partnership with UNICEF, aimed to encourage positive attitudes and social acceptance of children with disabilities through sport; and provide an opportunity for all children to engage with each other, learn to live together and respect one another.
“We all learned something today. The runners learned about children with disabilities and what they can do; the children themselves built their self-esteem and overcame obstacles to their participation”, said Datuk Dr Heng Aik Cheng, President of Kinabalu Running Club and Race Director of the Borneo International Marathon. “If we just changed the way we look at things, I believe that we can create an enabling environment for children of all abilities in an inclusive, caring and healthy society. Running together is just one way to show that we care and we want to do better. The success of the Borneo International Marathon this year is thanks to the dedication, hard work and sacrifice of our volunteers, Sabah-based organizations representing children with disabilities, and UNICEF.”
A special 3km route was set up for children with and without disabilities to participate in this sports event, together with their family and friends, alongside representatives from civil society organisations. All the different category runs – full-marathon, half-marathon, 10km route and 3km route – eventually converged in the Likas Stadium where 10,000 runners with and without disabilities came together for the closing ceremony.
The marathon was flagged off by Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, Mayor of Kota Kinabalu, who ran alongside the children with disabilities. The race was supported by the Sabah Tourism Board, Sabah Youth and Sports Ministry, Kota Kinabalu City Hall, Royal Malaysian Police, Sabah Health Department, Sabah Education Department and Jabatan Kerja Raya.
“It was uplifting to see runners and children with disabilities crossing the finish line together today”, said Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia who also ran. “Sport is a great equalizer that brings together persons with and without disabilities. Our own fears are often the greatest barriers that make children with disabilities invisible, excluded and discriminated; by running this marathon together, we dissipate those fears and misperceptions If today children with and without disabilities can run together, tomorrow they can learn together in the same class without discrimination.”
Several renowned international and Malaysian Para Olympians and sport athletes took part in the biggest sport and tourism event in Sabah to show their support for children with disabilities. This included Felicia Mikat the Malaysian triple ASEAN Para Games gold medallist and Zhariff Afandi, an ambassador of the 2050 National Transformation (TN50) plan and Katrina Webb the Australian Paralympic athlete and three times gold medallist. UNICEF National Ambassador Lisa Surihani encouraged runners through a special video public service announcement calling for runners to build a more inclusive society.
“My dream for the future is to see a world free of barriers”, said Sharone, 14, a girl with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder which affects her body movement and muscle coordination, who is participating in the marathon for the first time. “I want to participate in everything my friends do – as if I were one of them. This marathon shows me how that world can be possible”
Several civil society organisations from Sabah including Sabah Cheshire Home, Seri Mengasih, CHILD, Bukit Harapan, Down Syndrome Association, Special Olympics Sabah, Sabah Society for the Deaf, Befrienders Kota Kinabalu and Palliative Care Association Kota Kinabalu participated and mobilised children to take part in the Marathon.
Note to the Editor
A study commissioned by UNICEF last year in four different States across Malaysia including Sabah, on knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) has shown that there is still limited knowledge about the actual causes of disability and that stigma and discrimination is real at different levels for children, parents and families of children with disabilities.
· 58.4% of people surveyed reported being under-informed about children with disabilities.
· Stigma, discrimination, isolation and marginalisation operated on many levels for children with disabilities, their parents, families and friends.
· Participants projected greater negativity and stigma towards children with behavioural, mental and intellectual disabilities than towards children with physical or sensory disabilities.
· 43.1% of respondents thought it was disruptive for children to be in school with children with disabilities.
· Children and adolescents with disabilities felt sadness, loneliness, embarrassment and anger when they were excluded.
About the Borneo International Marathon
The first marathon in Sabah was held in 1984 and it was called the Daily Express Sabah Marathon. The next marathon was held 23 years later in 2008 and was called the Borneo International Marathon (BIM), pioneered by Andrew Voon. BIM is organized by Kinabalu Running Club, registered as a sports association (ROSA) under the Sports Commission. http://borneomarathon.com/
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.my
For more information, please contact:
Hana S. Harun
Kinabalu Running Club