By Allan Law
LAST year, Unicef organised a town hall event to discuss child sexual grooming with students and various experts, and they were shocked by what some of the teenagers had to say.
“There were children who did not realise they had been groomed until they attended the town hall!” said Unicef communications specialist Indra Kumari Nadchatram.
That’s why Unicef is now embarking on a nationwide tour of public town hall events, to make sure children from across the country are educated on how they can avoid becoming victims, and how they can get help if they’re ever in danger.
The #SayaSayangSaya town halls will be open to all members of the public, particularly teenagers, parents and educators.
Experts from the Royal Malaysian Police, the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM), Unicef, Digi and R.AGE will be available to answer questions from attendees.
The tour will start with town halls along the East Coast, starting with Kota Baru on Mar 19. It will also stop at Terengganu and Pahang.
“The town halls are meant to trigger conversations about online sexual grooming, to see what the children are thinking,” said Digi’s sustainability programme manager Philip Ling.
They need to know about the issue not only for themselves, but for each other as well, because teenagers often turn to their peers when they encounter online sexual grooming, added Ling.
Nevertheless, WOMEN:girls executive director Abby Latif said parents still have a huge role to play, and they need to learn to communicate more openly with their children about their online activities.
“Parents keep close tabs when it comes to their children’s homework, yet when it comes to the online activities of their children, they are simply not attentive enough,” said Abby.
WOMEN:girls are one of four organisations, alongside Digi, R.AGE and FRHAM, that are partnering with Unicef to run the town halls.
The campaign is a continuation of R.AGE and Unicef’s efforts to lobby for new laws against child sexual crimes.
With the new laws expected to be tabled and passed in Parliament later this month, their focus is now turning towards educating teenagers across the country, and making sure they know how to get help from FRHAM’s member associations in every state.
To find out more about FRHAM’s services, go to frham.org.my.