Transformation for Children in Malaysia

ICRI has been working in Malaysia since 1985, when we were invited to conduct a series of trainings in Kuala Lumpur on child advocacy and child development. This led to the formation of our sister organization, the Malaysian Child Resource Institute (MCRI), in 1988.

ICRI and MCRI facilitated the first National Child Advocacy Forum in 1997, and have continued to be deeply involved in national child and family policy advocacy. Working in tandem with ICRI, MCRI has advised numerous Malaysian government agencies, corporations, and NGOs on child advocacy and child development. MCRI has also conducted extensive training and capacity building for grassroots organizations serving Malaysian children and families.

MCRI has been at the forefront of the improvement and expansion of quality early childhood programs in Malaysia. MCRI assisted in the founding of NACEEM, the national association of early childhood professionals, and provides regular training on global best practices in early childhood care and education through Malaysian universities and NGOs. MCRI has also advised the Malaysian government on early childhood policy and programs.

MCRI also established the first national organization working to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation, Protect and Save the Children. Originally a project of MCRI, P.S. the Children has since grown into its own freestanding organization. Its vision is to create “a world that upholds the rights and dignity of every child – where every child is protected from sexual abuse and exploitation; a world that neither accepts nor tolerates sexual violence, and where a child can SPEAK UP, be heard and be helped; a culture that excuses nobody from sexual crime and violence, where communities not only have the courage to speak up, but are also committed to reach out.”

The 1997 National Child Advocacy Forum was a true turning point for children in Malaysia. Co-sponsored by MCRI, UNICEF, and the Malaysian National Ministry of Planning, the event was a remarkable collaboration between the public sector and NGO sector. Ken Jaffe, ICRI’s Founder and Executive Director, delivered a keynote address and led a multiday workshop that included several key government ministers and officials working together to draft the country’s first national plan for Children. One participant, Shaharizat Abdul Jalil, was at the time the Minister of Children, Women and Labor for Malaysia. She expressed strong sentiments that Malaysia needed the collaboration of NGOs like ICRI and MCRI partnering with government entities in order to meet the diverse needs of the country’s children.

From 1997 to 2009 a major effort took place to make significant change in the quality, content and capacity of children’s programs in the country. In 2009 ICRI was invited to provide keynote speeches at the first Prime Minister and First Lady’s International Conference on Early Childhood Education. To note the remarkable growth from the 1980s to 2009 was a joy to both Malaysians and those working with them on behalf of children. The First Lady convened this international conference and invited First Ladies and Prime Ministers from about 15 other countries.

The 2009 conference was another watershed for children in Malaysia. Participants were able to see firsthand how 12 years of strategic efforts had allowed Malaysia to make substantial improvements in the lives of children and families. Because of the deep involvement of both the Prime Minister and First Lady, the conference had added import, and its impact was felt beyond the country itself. Other world leaders in attendance were inspired to return home and revive or rethink their own country’s vision for children. The Malaysian media also took an unusually strong interest in the conference and covered the event extensively with daily reporting of the conference events and regular prime time interviews with speakers. Thus the level of awareness of the needs of young children was raised not just with policymakers and NGO leaders, but citizens across the country.

ICRI is incredibly grateful to have been so closely involved in the creation and implementation of Malaysian child and family policies. We remain committed to working in Malaysia in the long term, collaborating with both governmental and non-governmental partners to ensure that this country continues its remarkable commitment to children.