“Children are not robots and what we say matters too. You were once a child too. Rights matter. We learn through playing and mistakes.” – F, 16, Johor
Thirty years ago, world leaders came together to say yes to children’s rights. They made the right call! The Convention on the Rights of the Child — which I will from now on refer to as the CRC ‘cause wow, that’s a mouthful — is this treaty that says all children below 18 years old should have special rights, and that adults and governments need to make sure they have children’s best interests at heart. You would think these things sebenarnya would be a given la kan, but the more you know!
Anyway! The CRC is a good thing — it’s the most supported human rights treaty in the world and thanks to it, children all over the world are safer and happier. I think that’s pretty worth celebrating!
GETTING RIGHTS, RIGHT!
But of course, there’s still a long way to go lah. Right here at home, we still have so many children and young people who are undocumented, roughly 450,000 of them! And undocumented maksudnya takde MyKad. Takde MyKad maksudnya cannot go to school. And let’s not forget that child marriage is also still a thing and that’s ENTIRELY BONKERS IN 2019!
So sikit-sikit lama-lama menjadi bukit, but IMHO we haven’t capai tahap bukit yet. Can achieve one, but we need all the help and ideas that we can get to really make sure everyone lives better lives.
And that got me wondering what the children of Malaysia have to say about all this. So, I used U–Report to talk to over 250 teens from all over Malaysia about children’s rights.
WHAT TEENS HAVE TO SAY …
- According to our stats, only 1 in 5 children (21%) I spoke to believe children’s rights are taken seriously in Malaysia.
- 24% say it isn’t and the rest believe children’s rights are only taken seriously from time to time.
- When asked about needs that are constantly overlooked: “Better Education” (18%) and “Safety” (12%) came up as a frequent answer, but topping the list was the “Need to be Heard” (24%).
Pretty cool, kan? #GodBlessTheInternet
This last point I think is pretty interesting! Like, the adults are talking about children’s rights but how often do they ever really listen to the very young people they are trying to protect?
It’s kinda like sitting at report card day in school, where your teacher and parents talk to one another and you’re not really allowed to say anything when you’re literally right there — they’re just there to talk about you, but not to you. Even when you’ve got some pretty important things to say too!
Thankfully, I’m not a teacher. So I also asked these teens to share one thing they’d like to tell the adults and people in power if they got the chance.
Here are some of my favourite quotable quotes. ADULTS PLEASE LISTEN UP ‘CAUSE YOU COULD LEARN SOMETHING HERE JUST SAYIN’.📢👂🏼📢👂🏼📢👂🏼📢👂🏼
PEACE & UNITY
“Stop racism even though it’s hard for the older generation to change.” – F, 16, Selangor
“You should work together instead of fighting against each other.” – M, 18 Selangor
“Peace! Promote racial culture activities to vanish racism.” – M, 16, Pulau Pinang
“The world has changed, unfortunately it has been detrimental, and we have to take action. Not judge and gossip from the back.” – M, 15, Selangor
“Start funding more for youth education instead of cutting it.” – M, 18, Negeri Sembilan
“Please invest more in the funding of children’s education and provide more for the children in rural areas.” – F, 17, Kuala Lumpur
HEALTH, WELLBEING & SAFETY
“Children now are having too much stress on studies and affects their mental health.” – F, 14, Kuala Lumpur
“Stop child marriage.” – F, 16
“I’ll tell them (adults) to stop turning a blind eye to the people suffering in countries like Palestine.” – F, 16, Negeri Sembilan
DIGNITY, RESPECT & RIGHT TO BE HEARD
“It’s our turn now.” – Other gender, 17
“Please give us the due respect.” – M, 17
“Kita sebagai kanak-kanak inginkan privasi dan hak bersuara.” – F, 13, Kuala Lumpur
“I would tell them to take all children seriously and think beyond their living years, and prevent the mess the future generations will have to face tomorrow. The people in power have consequential influence and therefore should think beyond their own generation.” – F, 16 Selangor
And by far my favourite, most hard-hitting response:
“Don’t use our money.” – F, 16, Selangor
These are just some of the gems I found through U-Report. Lawak ada, serious ada, macam-macam, but all pretty important!
INCLUDE US IN THE CONVO!
These voices remind us that it’s time that the kids of our generation are included in the conversation when it relates to them; and high-time adults stop speaking only amongst themselves when their decisions will affect children.
There are issues that sometimes adults forget matter. There are some experiences that only kids today will go through; and it’s super important that they are heard when they say “This matters to us”.
So while we’ve achieved a lot in the past 30 years, I think we could achieve a lot more if adults listened up. I think the next 30 years lagi power kot!
Pssssst: If you’d like to share your voice on issues you care about, you should sign up to be a U-Reporter! U-Report allows you to join other young people in Malaysia and across the world to share your opinions and ideas. Kalau nak join, click here: http://bit.ly/urmywhatsapp
In case your’re wondering, Malaysia signed on to the CRC in 1995. Our PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has the distinct honour of being the only PM in office today who was head of state when the CRC was adopted 30 years ago. That’s pretty cool, right!
PS – Don’t forget to #GoBlue on 20 November to celebrate the CRC’s 30th birthday and World Children’s Day.