Youth empowerment initiative demands safer Malaysia for girls

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childrens rights
Image: elanguages.org

Eighteen teenage girls of the ‘Gerak: Suara Kami’ project, together with the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), shared a memorandum, zine and video with 29 demands to make Malaysia safer for girls to Lembah Pantai MP and member of the parliamentary Special Select Committee on Women and Children Affairs, Fahmi Fadzil.

The handover took place at his office on 29 October 2021.

The Gerak: Suara Kami project, an initiative coordinated by WAO with the support of the Women’s Fund Asia (WFA), aims to build capacities of young women and teenage girls through a series of workshops and film screenings.

The girls, who are a part of the Lembah Pantai grassroots community, discussed and responded to various issues, including gender, identity, gender-based violence and discrimination. The project presents an alternative space for its teenage participants to recognise and demand their rights while also encouraging the participants to explore creative avenues to express themselves. Collaboratively, the girls developed a zine, video and memorandum to advocate for their rights.

The participants have proudly presented this memorandum, zine and video, consisting of demands to their MP. They are appealing to the government to prioritise the welfare of girls and children, to respect the freedom of expression of teenage girls and to protect women and children from violence, among others.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Malaysian government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), indicating our commitment to protect children’s rights in 1995. However, Malaysia has only reported on the progress of the implementation of the convention’s obligations twice since then.

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As such, it is paramount that we uphold this commitment and make policy decisions guided by the convention. Malaysia must consistently act in the best interests of the child and protect children’s right to participation.

The urgency to protect children’s rights in accordance with the convention is clearly reflected in the voices featured in this edition of the Gerak: Suara Kami zine. Articles of the convention highlighted were Articles 3 (best interests of the child), 12 (respect for the views of the child, 13 (freedom of expression), 19 (protection from violence, abuse and neglect), 24 (health and health services), 25 (review of treatment in care), 26 (social security), 27 (adequate standard of living), 28 (right to education) and 29 (goals of education).

Empowering teenage girls

The memorandum submitted highlights important and powerful issues about the realities of the lived experiences of the participants. In it, they articulate the ways in which their rights as women and children have not been met and realised. As a society, we must ensure we listen to their needs and act on these demands.

Every person – including teenage girls – has a right to be heard, participate in decision-making and be the voice of change. Acting on this memorandum is a step towards building a better world – a world that acknowledges and validates the rights of women and children and provides spaces for them to be their own agents of change. – WAO

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