What is the Get On Board Campaign About?
Get on Board is a "people's campaign" by UNICEF to provide the Malaysian public with a platform to learn and respond to child abuse in the country. The digitally driven campaign, a first by UNICEF in the region, aims to strengthen public understanding of child abuse by providing information on the types of abuse, why it could happen and how to recognise symptoms in an abused child. It also hopes to empower the public to act on behalf of children by equipping them with protection solutions, parenting tips, action ideas and a directory of important resources. The campaign will run for two months. It was launched on 6 October in Kuala Lumpur and will culminate on 10 December (in conjunction with Human Rights Day). The finale will be hosted by UNICEF together with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and a local NGO, Childline Malaysia.
Why is this campaign important?
Despite significant strides made by the Government of Malaysia to improve child protection measures in recent years, statistics from the Department of Social Welfare show a rise in reported child abuse cases in the country. In 2008, 2,780 cases of child abuse were reported compared to 2,279 in 2007 and 1,999 in 2006. While these figures in itself are worrying, we fear that it does not tell the true story about child abuse in the country. Because these figures represent only reported cases, it does not tell us anything about the scope, magnitude and reasons for child abuse in Malaysia. We also believe that the rise in the number of reported cases could be related to both a limited public understanding about child abuse; and its consequences on children as well as limited awareness about what actions can be taken on an individual level to prevent child abuse from occurring. The 'Get on Board' campaign is aimed at addressing these challenges. The campaign is anchored on the principle that "We Need to Know" - to know and understand more about the trends of child abuse in the country, to know more about how to recognise symptoms, and to know how we can respond as individuals. The adage that ignorance is bliss could not be farther from the truth, particularly in the context of child abuse. Knowledge is the key to our success. It gives us the power to govern ourselves, our households, and ultimately our communities.
What does this campaign hope to achieve?
We want this campaign to make child abuse everyone's business. 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. 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. A study on child abuse and its root causes would also help establish benchmarks for the measurement of child abuse, against which it would be possible to monitor future changes and trends in the abuse of children, and in public attitudes towards it. Just as important, the campaign aims to inform the public about child abuse, why it could happen, how to recognise symptoms in a child and inspire the public to act on behalf of children by equipping them with protection tips and action ideas.
Will this campaign put an end to abuse?
The Get on Board campaign is about providing the people of Malaysia with a platform to unite against child abuse in the country by learning more and doing more. When more people are engaged on the issue, the closer we are to ensuring the safety of our children. Child abuse prevention efforts however must build on family strengths since parents are recognised to have the most important role in raising their children. Through prevention activities such as parent education, home visitation, and parent support groups, many families can find the support they need to stay together and care for their children in their homes and communities. Prevention efforts should help parents develop their parenting skills, understand the benefits of nonviolent discipline techniques, and understand and meet their child's emotional, physical, and developmental needs. Prevention programs should also help parents identify other needs they may have; and provide assistance to parents in getting that additional support.
Why should I care about this campaign?
According to the statistics from the Department of Social Welfare, 7 children on average were abused each day in 2008. Each of these children has within themselves the potential to be a leader; to excel at education; and to have a family. When this child is abused, that potential is both poisoned and limited. This future leader then becomes a drain on society; a victim rather than a solution. Sure, this does not happen in every case; and we have in fact seen incredibly resilient and brave people who have found ways to rise above their situations; and even help others do the same. Aside from its impact on a child's life, child abuse also has the potential to spread. People who were abused as children are much more likely to end up mimicking that abusive behavior with their own children. The problems associated with child abuse will only continue and likely grow larger without active attempts to end it. Child abuse victims may also have difficulties in school, leading to poorer employment prospects later in life and placing the victim at higher risk of living in poverty. Child abuse victims can also experience social and psychological problems that cause them to become isolated from general society. They might also turn to alcohol or drugs as ways of escape and risk becoming dependent on these substances. These situations can all contribute to making the victim more likely to act in ways harmful to society, such as criminal activity, violence and continuing the pattern of abuse. With increased criminal activity, there will be a greater need for laws to be enforced, and the need for more police and other law enforcement officials. While the effects of child abuse are hard to quantify in many respects, one way that they can be measured is in the Ringgit spent in dealing with its consequences - these include healthcare and mental health care services and legal costs.
What resources and support will UNICEF provide to people interested to participate?
The campaign website www.uniteagainstabuse.my will remain open indefinitely to serve as a one-stop repository for users to gain knowledge, insights, advice and resources on child abuse and how to prevent and respond to it. The website will also provide resources and contact information for concerned Malaysians to band together and rally against child abuse in any form. Fact sheets are also available for the media as well as individuals and organisations to download to champion the cause and embark on their own outreach campaigns.
How can I support the 'Get on Board' Campaign?
Each of us is responsible for transforming our communities into places that care about - and actively support - families and children. Each of us must pay attention to the kinds of efforts that will prevent child abuse from happening in the first place. We all need to learn more about what we can do individually and within our communities to prevent child abuse.
The Get on Board website offers the Malaysian public a platform to unite and show their support to stopping child abuse. By logging online to www.uniteagainstabuse.my, concerned and caring individuals can show their support by:
We hope that the information from the website will inspire the public to begin conversations about protecting children from abuse. Conversations that will take place over a neighbour's fence, at the office coffee machine, while in queue at the bank or grocer as well as through letters to editors and on the internet through blogs, tweets and facebook updates. But most important to the abused child, we hope the campaign will equip the public with the confidence to stay alert for children, and to report suspected abuse immediately by calling 15999.