KOTA KINABALU, March 12 ― The Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government has been urged to protect children’s rights by implementing planned programmes that were previously adopted through inter-departmental consultations and collaborative programmes with non-governmental organisations.

Kapayan assemblywoman Jannie Lasimbang and PACOS Trust expressed this hope during a courtesy visit to Community Development and People’s Well-being Minister Shahelmy bin Yahya, assistant minister Flovia Ng, Women Affairs Department (JHEWA) director Rosnah Kuyung, Sabah Social Services director Jais Asri and other officers from the ministry today.

Shahelmey was supportive of the programmes presented, particularly the awareness-raising talks to stop marriages under 18 years old in secondary schools as these talks have previously been carried out by JHEWA and the Sabah Women Advisory Council (MPWS), said Jannie in a statement yesterday.

In the statement, it was also mentioned that PACOS Trust is making preparations for the talks in 20 secondary schools in 2021-2022 through the financial support of the European Union.

These awareness talks will involve students, parents and teachers to enhance their knowledge about stopping child marriages, and aimed at helping every child enjoy their childhood without being pressured into marriage and be aware of their rights to adequate standard of living, health, education, and freedom from negative social norms.

“This activity, along with legal amendments to the Native Court and Syariah Court Enactments, were among activities in the ’10-Year Action Plan to End Marriages under 18 Years’ that was adopted by the Ministry of Law and Native Affairs in 2019,” Jannie said.

“The visit to the ministry for me is important to ensure continuity of past government commitments that are important to the rakyat, in this case, the protection of children’s rights” she said.

Jannie added that we can stop child marriage and provide a better future for our children and ensure 30 women in leadership positions, but to make changes, international bodies, governments and political and faith leaders need to come together and commit to putting human rights standards into action all over the world.

The PACOS Trust team also invited Shahelmey to be part of an initiative to call for a policy in Sabah that would set the quota of 30 percent women in all levels of decision-making in the public sector.

To kick-start this call, a webinar will be organised on March 23 to get the support of government departments, NGOs, community leaders and private sector to hear international and national experiences as well as local initiatives to prepare women to meet this quota.

“Advocacy and leadership trainings, and engaging with both men and women in leadership positions can empower women and further increase the 30 per cent quota.” said PACOS Trust executive director Anne Lasimbang. ― Borneo Post