“Say Yes For Children” Exhibition

Nov 2, 2002 ◄ Back to list

The usually sombre ambience of Wisma Kebudayaan SGM's exhibition hall was momentarily transformed into a children's dreamland from November 2 to 10 for the 'Say Yes For Children' Exhibition. The more than 3,000 visitors who walked in during those nine days were greeted by an array of decorative objects - clouds, smiling sun and luminous stars hanging in suspension from the ceiling.

The exhibition, jointly organised by Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM), Guardian Angel Art Studio and Malaysian Child Resource Institute (MCRI), and supported by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) consisted of a children's art exhibition and a section on child rights. The organisers had selected the theme 'Say Yes For Children' to link the effort to a global campaign of the same name. The 'Say Yes For Children' global movement was originally conceived out of a desire to enhance a sense of public responsibility towards children. Today it has been launched in over 160 countries including Malaysia.

National Plan of Action for Children

During her opening speech on November 2, the Minister of National Unity and Social Development, Datuk Dr Siti Zaharah Sulaiman, applauded the initiative and leadership shown by the organisations involved in realising the exhibition. The Minister reported that the government has formulated a national plan of action for year 2000 to 2020 that will focus on issues of children's development and participation in society. The Minister also commented that the government would like to work closely with non-governmental organisations like SGM and MCRI to implement these plans.

Echoing the words of Mr Kul Chandra Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF who said, "If the world is going to be truly fit for children, it is going to require action not just by governments and by organisations, but by families and communities and individuals," the organisers had put together an event that involved the community, the parents, the teachers and the children themselves.

Fostering Children's Creativity

The organisers recognised that many children today live in relative material abundance, an environment that may not be conducive to children's overall growth and development. One of the ways that adults can counter this imbalance is by nurturing and developing children's creativity and appreciation for art, as these can foster their sensitivity towards the world around them. The art exhibition is a step towards this end.

The art exhibition consisted of 225 art pieces by young artists of the Guardian Angel Art Studio. Those who had spent a bit more time gazing at each piece of work were touched by the children's frank yet imaginative portrayals of the world we live in. According to the principal of the art school, Ms Jane Yap, the art exhibition was important as it allowed the young artists to achieve a sense of fulfilment in their works. The exhibition was also an opportunity to perform charity. A total of 75 artworks were sold to raise funds for children's charity purposes. RM53,920 were raised and donated to eight charitable organisations - Shelter Homes, Spastic Children's Association of Selangor and Federal Territory, Rumah Care, Rumah Ozanam, Rumah Hope, RACTAR, WAKE and the Paediatric Ward of Universiti Hospital.

On the first level of the Exhibition Hall, was a special exhibition highlighting children's rights organised with the co-operation and assistance from UNICEF. A reading corner comprising of books and brochures related to child rights was opened to visitors of the exhibition. In addition, there was a video corner highlighting UN's Special Session and NGO Forum on children.

Public Forum and Workshop

In conjunction with the exhibition, a public forum and workshop on child rights were organised on November 3. The public forum entitled 'Yes! My Rights as a Child' was targetted at the parents and youth who were interested in finding out more about the development of child rights in Malaysia. Members of the panel for the forum Professor Chiam Heng Keng, representing the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM); Mrs Liew Sau Pheng, Adviser of the Malaysian Child Resource Institute (MCRI); Ms Yasmeem Shariff, Vice President of the Association of Women Lawyers and Victoria Loi, from MCRI. Chairing the session was Mrs Wong Poai Hong from the Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia.

Held simultaneously with the forum, was a workshop on child rights. Designed for children and teenagers between 10 to 18 years old, the workshop was organised to give children the liberty and opportunity to voice their opinions on various issues from child labour to murder without the presence of adults. Youth volunteers from the MCRI and SGM moderated the fun and educational two-hour session which involved over 100 participants. Aside from providing a platform for children's voices to be heard, the workshop also gave them a better understanding about child rights and the governing principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children.