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Monday, 20 November 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Listen when children speak up

KUALA LUMPUR: Bullying is a promi­nent concern among Malay­sian children with almost seven out of 10 worrying about being bullied, according to a new global survey by Unicef in conjunction with World Children’s Day today.

In comparison, the figure is only three out of 10 in Japan and four out of 10 in Britain.

Besides bullying (77%), other primary concerns among Malaysian children include climate change (also 77%), poverty (74%), education access (74%) and terrorism (74%).

The survey also found that Malaysian youths worry about violence against children (64%) and terrorism (60%), while their top choices for world leaders to focus on are education for the poor (17%), poverty and terrorism (15% each).

Unicef representative to Malaysia Marianne Clark-Hattingh said the survey showed that children in Malaysia are interested in global issues and the impact of these issues on their lives and those of their peers, and have opinions on issues that affect them closer to home.

“The global survey highlighted issues of particular concern to Malaysian children – bullying, for example – and this should be taken seriously and addressed,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the survey also showed that 54% feel that even when asked for their opinion, they are not really listened to or their voice does not influence change.”

Adults should listen to and consult children about issues that affect them and take their opinions into account, said Clark-Hattingh.

“When children and adolescents are engaged and encouraged to participate, it builds confidence and global citizenship, and helps build democratic and peaceful societies.

“So, on this World Children’s Day – when children speak up, listen up,” she added.

The comparative survey involved 11,000 boys and girls aged between nine and 18 years in 14 countries from all regions across the world, including Brazil, Egypt, India, Turkey and the United States.

More than half the children polled in Malaysia (53%) expressed mistrust of adults and world leaders responsible for making decisions on their behalf, compared to 68% in Britain, 59% in the United States and 81% in Brazil.

Children in Malaysia feel their opinion is most appreciated by family (92%), friends (88%) and teachers (76%), which is similar to the trends in Britain and the United States.

More than half the children surveyed in Malaysia (54%) feel their voice is not heard at all or does not help bring about change, compared to 51% in Japan, 61% in the United States, and 71% in Britain.

A great majority of children in Malaysia (95%) believe the world would be a better place for children if leaders would hear their voice.

This percentage is higher than almost every country surveyed (89% in the United States, 85% in Britain, 77% in Japan), except South Africa (97%).

Barack Obama is the number one person Malaysian children would invite to their birthday.

Also in conjunction with World Children’s Day, 30 children from across the social spectrum, including those with disabilities, will take over Malaysian media today to make their voice heard.

Over 10 major media partners spanning TV, radio, print and online across the country will participate in this global initiative under the theme #ForEveryChild.