Unicef rep: Uphold children’s rights
KUALA LUMPUR: Children have rights and it is the duty of society to protect and uphold these rights.
United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) representative to Malaysia Wivina Belmonte said families and governments are primarily responsible in this issue.
Belmonte was speaking at the launching of "My Promise to Children" campaign held in conjunction with the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The event is a joint effort of Unicef, the Association of Registered Child Care Providers Malaysia (PPBM), Bar Council Malaysia, the Child Rights Coalition Of Malaysia (CCRM), DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, Isobar, Malaysia Paediatric Association (MPA), National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC), the School at Jaya One and the Scouts Association of Malaysia.
Belmonte expressed her concern for children who still struggle in life because they live in geographically isolated areas, face systemic prejudice and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or disability and are exposed to violence and abuse at home, in school, in their community and online.
"I am thinking of children who have been victimised; the boy who endures daily beatings as he tries to protect his parent from abuse, the young daughter who is married off because she has been raped, the sister who gives up school to care for her younger siblings or the boy who is forced to work to support his family in the absence of a parent," she said.
"An articulated right is not necessarily an executed right," she stressed, adding that the role of protecting these rights requires a holistic effort.
"Everyone has a responsibility to uphold and protect children's rights. However, we need to understand that children have rights before we can start championing them," she added.
Belmonte went on to say that among the obstacles child rights activists face is the lack of awareness.
"Most people are not even aware that children have rights."
The campaign seeks to be a unifying platform that will allow the public to show their support to and for children.
A parent who wanted be identified as Mei Leng, whose 14-year-old son Isaac Choo suffers from muscular dystrophy, applauded the campaign and said that awareness was vital, not just for children but also for parents who have children with disabilities and illnesses.
"The support I get from parents in similar situations is what keeps me going. It is not easy and this is all the more reason why initiatives like this campaign are important," she said.
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