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EXPERIENCES: Children’s Rights at Home and at Knowing Children

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by Mohammad Qadafi

Children’s Right

Truth be told, not many people know what is children’s rights. Most of them don’t even know it has been formed. Seeing one of the articles in the children’s right, I recalled back one of my fond memory as a child. In fact, I believe this memory lies within every grown up as this happened to them too.

Article 13, states that every children has the right to freedom of expression. But let’s face it, being Asian that is the one thing that we lack in practice. Being Asian means listening to your elders and to fail to do so is considered impolite and vile. Hence, it is not widely practiced in Asian cultures.

I still remember following mum to her friend’s house during Raya (Eid Al Mubarak, celebrated by Muslims after fasting month) and as a kid, well the only plan was only to munch down all the cookies and getting Raya packets! Like most people, she also baked her own cookies to be served to guests. But, her cookies tasted really bad. It was tasteless, and children like sweet things! So, when my mum asked me how do I like it ?,I just said what was in my mouth. ‘Not nice’.

Thanks to my freedom of expression, I got a nice fine beating from my mum. I did not get it at that point, why would she hit me for MY opinion? As kids, we were not supposed to lie right? ‘Ahh, kids’ she would say. ‘It’s really delicious’ and she took another bite of the cookie.

As an Asian child, I listen well to my parents. Hence, I altered my answer and said ‘It is nice’ and faked a smile.

After a while, I discovered the pattern of this adult talk. You say what you want people to hear, not what you want to say. They even have a name for this, which is called courtesy. In my own word, it is lies. After that, lie was what I did. I would say the nicest things that people want to hear. I had to supress what I felt in order to make others feel good.

Parents, whether they realise it or not are teaching their children to lie by not allowing them to express what they feel. This is a direct violation of a child’s right and society does not even know about this. Maybe they should not teach us to lie, instead to alter the speech to be heard better and not changing what we are trying to convey.

Intern Experience in Children’s Rights Organisation

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Judith Ennew

Working as an intern in Knowing Children for about 2 months in the year 2013 was a privilege experience and it taught me a lot about children’s right. Knowing Children is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) founded by the late Judith Ennew in Bangkok in the year 2006. I was honoured to get the chance to work with her before she passed away later that year. She was a great teacher, a selfless mentor and had many respectable qualities as a leader.

I still remember vividly her warm greetings and her hospitality when I first started there. She humbly showed me around the office and she spoke with very friendly tone of voice. I could tell she was very proud and happy despite her small office space. The working space was where all data was analysed and gathered, hence the heart of the office. Nevertheless, she was a firm teacher. On the very first day itself, I was given a task to read multiple books on children’s right. Approximately 6 books, written by her and her colleagues on the projects and findings they had done in the previous years.

That day was the day that changed my life. Who knew there were so many rights regarding children? I was a bit stunned too as I missed my childhood without practicing these rights. Besides the working space, my next favourite place was the Janusz Korczak library which was also in the office. As I like reading, it was a safe haven. There you could see a lot of cases regarding child abuse, mistreatment of children, conference papers, child summit reports and a lot more. Being an intern there, I was also a research assistant for Knowing Children under the guidance of Miss Jasmin Lim. There were few documents too where the story was told by the victim themselves. The way they put the story, it showed how defenceless and hopeless they were being in that situation. Despite having a part of myself trying to deny the cruelty of reality, I toughened myself and continued reading the works of many other researchers regarding children. Along the way, I also learned and understood why Judith fought for this cause from the beginning until the end of her life.

One of the projects that I worked on was on the housing project around Subang area. Going there for the first time, bearing the name as a researcher for the first time and Knowing Children was a weight on my shoulder. I had to do it right. I have knowledge about Children’s right and I had to spread it out to them. Luckily, a lot of experienced researchers were there to help and teach me how to do it properly. I was excited and a bit sad at the same time. Excited that I was there to spread the knowledge, sad that many children were still unaware of their rights. We were there for a short while, but I can proudly say that joy was what we gave them indeed.

Thank you to Voice of Children (VoC) for giving me a slot to write on children’s right and I will remember all the memories I have made here. Although I am no longer an intern with Knowing Children, I would still extend my heartfelt gratitude to them for teaching me and mentoring me on children’s right. Thanks to these organisations, there is one more person who is now aware of children’s right in the world.

Mohd Qadafi has recently completed his internship with Voice of Children (VoC) and currently studying at USM for Bachelor Degree in English for Professionals. He is interested in Islamic Eschatology, James Blunt, and political science.

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