Get on Board – Stop child abuse now!

Putting an end to child abuse is a shared responsibility, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlighted today during the launch of its ‘Get on Board’ campaign. The two-month initiative drives home the message of child protection with a rallying call to action: ‘Raise your hand. Stop child abuse now!’ and aims to unite 100,000 Malaysians in time for the finale on Human Rights Day in December.

Every child has a right to grow up in a safe and protected environment reminded UNICEF’s Representative to Malaysia Mr. Hans Olsen, while urging Malaysians to learn more about child abuse and what can be done to protect children on an individual and community level.

“We need to raise public awareness of the devastating effects of child abuse,” said Mr. Olsen, “and empower and encourage people to become personally involved and support families and parents so that we can prevent all forms of child abuse from affecting the lives of children in Malaysia.”

Speaking out for children
Prominent Malaysian personalities actor/singer Afdlin Shauki, activist and blogger Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and parenting expert and columnist Ruth Liew are amongst the first to get on board the campaign. The UNICEF-appointed campaign Advocates together with event hosts and TV personalities Asha Gill and Naz Rahman called on their fans and supporters “to take responsibility to help transform their communities into places that care about—and actively support—families and children.”

An average of 7 children were abused every day in 2008 according to Malaysia’s Social Welfare Department statistics which revealed a rise in the numbers of children being abused. In 2008, 2,780 cases of child abuse were reported compared to 2,279 in 2007 and 1,999 in 2006. Since these figures only represent reported cases, UNICEF and its partners fear that it does not tell the true story about child abuse in the country.

“These statistics alone do not tell us enough about the extent of abuse in a population, the severity of abuse over time or why abuse is occurring,” added Mr. Olsen. “This is why we are calling for public support for action to better understand the extent of abusive behaviour in the general population and the reasons behind it. This will help the Government design evidence-based interventions to protect children from abuse and ensure them a safe and healthy childhood.”

Going digital for children
The public can now log online to to express their support for action and to learn about child abuse. A part of the ‘Get on Board’ Campaign, the website provides knowledge, insights, advice and resources to engage, educate and empower adults and young people to protect children from abuse. Website visitors will also be given the chance to create their own unique ‘Hand’ symbol which they can use as their Facebook profile picture or on other social media in a show of solidarity across the country.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Childline Malaysia, YouthAsia, the Nuffnang blogger community and a host of corporate sponsors and media partners have also stepped up to the ‘Get on Board’ campaign. .

“We hope that the ‘Get on Board’ website will inspire people to spread the word and say “stop!” to child abuse through blogs and other social networking sites,” Mr. Olsen appealed. “Small positive actions can make a big difference in the life of a child – even if it’s just a Tweet or a Facebook update!”