By SHARMILA NAIR
CHILDREN’S rights is not a topic that most young people talk about. They find it boring as it can get very technical and involves terms and jargons they are unfamiliar with.
However, children’s rights is one topic that everyone, especially young people, has to keep on talking about no matter how brain-numbing it gets. Why?
Because it is important.
According to UNICEF: “The Convention on the Rights of the Child spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children’s rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services.”
A person under 18 years old is considered a child. However, it is unfortunate that not all children know their basic rights.
“I know child rights because we learned them in school but it’s not a topic that comes up when talking to my family. My friends have taken no interest in it either, so I’ve never really had any reason to discuss children’s rights,” said Natasha Ananda Krishnan, 17.
Aza Iza Abu Zaid, on the other hand, said that she has tried talking to her friends about matters pertaining to her interests, but however they didn’t seem too keen about discussing those subjects.
Realising that there are not many avenues where young people can come together to discuss important issues pertaining to their rights, Knowing Children recently launched a Facebook group called Mousedeer.
“We hope that with Mousedeer, children would learn more about their rights. Children need families, education and protection from violence. We want this group to help children voice their opinions and (get them to) actively ask Mousedeer about their rights,” said Knowing Children founder Dr Judith Ennew.
The closed Facebook group (you need to request for approval) was set up in October last year and Mousedeer, is the online persona through which a group of Malaysian children interact and learn about children’s rights.
Of the hundreds of children who interacted through Facebook, 20 children nominated by their peers were selected to form a special group that would come up with a questionnaire.
This questionnaire will contain questions pertaining to children and their lifestyle, and can be completed online.
“We will also reach out to children who do not have access to Facebook. Those in orphanages, with disabilities, in deprived communities and plantations, as well as Orang Asli children will also be given the chance to share their views through the questionnaire,” said Ennew.
The findings will be written and submitted by the children committee and the report will be included in the Malaysian children’s report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
“We hope to have the report ready by July this year,” added Ennew. The questionnaire will be available at the Mousedeer Facebook page in a couple of days, and Ennew would like to see many children provide their input. She also hopes that more children will use the Mousedeer group as an avenue to share their thoughts on children’s rights.
Aza believes that Mousedeer is a good platform to get young people to raise questions about their rights and learn more on the topic.
“I guess it’s good for the children who have nobody to talk about their rights. At least there will be people who are willing to take some time to read and reply them on that page rather than leave them feeling so depressed about not having anyone to listen to them,” she said.
Natasha hopes that more children will be aware of the existence of such groups. “Most children are unaware of such groups on Facebook because they spend their time chatting and playing games. I hope that Mousedeer will find more ways to promote themselves to gain children’s support – like starting a radio or TV campaign.”
For more information look for Mousedeer Msia on Facebook or visit themousedeergroup.wordpress.com