Title: How safe are our children today?
Date: 11-Apr-2008

In the last workshop organized by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) to discuss on the National Child Protection Policy, those who attended were left wondering how much bit this policy would have when tackling complex issues of child abuse, human trafficking, juvenile detention and the state of undocumented children in the country.

Over the past few years, crime rates in the country have increased by 159 percent. Serious crimes have increased by 13 percent. Cases of child abuse have also increase by 60 percent. Statistics would show that 70 percent of abuse cases are still caused by immediate family members. Five in every 10 cases are caused by the child’s parents themselves. Out of 1999 reported cases of child abuse in 2006, mothers were responsible for 493 cases. Fathers came in a close second with 441 cases.

On a separate issue, last year, we had 1649 missing children. Eighty percent of all missing children were girls. Names like Sharlinie, Asmawi, Preeshena and Nurin have unfortunately become household names for the wrong reasons.

It’s not easy to accept that the above statistics are numbers reflecting the state of our society today. It makes it even more difficult especially when we know that our country is still a growing society.

We have approximately 4.1 million children below the age of six years old. Forty percent of the Malaysian population is still below the age of 18 years old. With such a young population, a strong emphasis on carrying out workable strategies by key stake holders such as the ministry, NGOs, schools, parents and so on is crucial in safe guarding the interest of our children. A proper implementation of the above National Child Protection Policy must make a difference in the lives of every child on the street.

An initiative the ministry made last year was the introduction of Talian Nur (15999) – a telephone report service. We hear that the ministry has spent Rm 4 million to get Talian Nur up and running. Talian Nur provides the general public who may be facing social woes the direct access to get help from the correct people in the ministry. It’s an intervention service that is much needed as there are still many among those in difficult circumstances who do not know what services are available for them or how to attain them.

We at SHELTER are constantly trying to improve our early intervention services by working out programmes that make a difference in the lives of children. We are trying to prevent the possibility of abuse in society by targeting our services to the populations within our society that are at risk. Through our community support programmes such as food and financial aid, documentation assistance, single mothers support and community centres; we are hoping that the assistance we provide would reduce the possibility of neglect, abuse and abandonment.

For example, every time we help a family who did not register birth certificates for their children, we are preventing future problems such as difficulties in school enrolment, obtaining identification cards and receiving government aid. Providing support and care for teens in the event of an out of wedlock pregnancy reduces the possibility of child abandonment upon delivery. In the same light, helping a family in financial difficulty reduces the possibility of child neglect of the possibility of the child becoming a school dropout.

Whatever services the relevant governmental agency or we at SHELTER provide to those in need, a strong partnership with the community is very much needed. Not all people in need know what help is available and where to get them. Children in abusive or neglected situations for example need an observant and proactive member of the public to speak up and act on their behalf. They need concerned people who are willing to connect them to the relevant people. In these difficult times, all of us need to play our part; and the time to play our part is now!

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