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It’s Malaysia Day! On this day of national unity and diversity, and this very significant year, we celebrate the very best of what Malaysia represents.

But what do parents wish for when it comes to Malaysia’s future? We ask some mothers and fathers about their hopes and dreams.

Tricia Yeoh :

I hope for a Malaysia in which parents (especially mums) can choose both to work and care for their families if they so desire, and receive the necessary recognition, value and accommodation by their employers to make sure that they can.

I hope for a Malaysia in which my daughter can go to a government school as I did, and receive high quality education while mingling with children of all backgrounds.

I hope for a Malaysia in which my child will grow up free to be who she chooses to be, without any systemic discrimination.


Daphne Iking :

I pray new Malaysia will be committed in ending child marriages and making quality education and basic medical needs accessible to all children, regardless if they are Malaysians or refugees.

I would like there to be harsher punishment for sexual grooming and child rape. My hope is for a brigher future for our children.


M.T. :

Malaysia Day will eternally remain a special day for me because, quite simply, my firstborn son was born on that day. To feel an overwhelming sense of patriotism and national identity for my boy would be an understatement. It would be fun for him to know that his birthday will always be a public holiday as long as he stays in Malaysia.

But staying in Malaysia throughout his life isn’t necessarily a predestined future. As the world grows smaller, our boundaries become less of a barrier than the lines drawn on a map. My hopes for him is to be a globalised individual – one who is not constrained or defined by his nationality and yet, bring his Malaysianness to the world. Oh, the places he will go.

My hopes for Malaysia Day is that he grows as we, as country, continue to grow – with eternal hope and steadfast ideals. I remember giving him his first flag when he was nearly three, and he loved waving it around. This lasted for months. May he carry that flag for his many years ahead.


Sereni Linggi:

I hope for a strong and stable Malaysia for my children. One that is peaceful, fair and with many opportunities. As much as I hope for a more modern society, I also hope for one that will continue to preserve its multi-cultural traditions and heritage so that our children can truly appreciate our colourful past.


Dessy Barnaby :

It has been 12 years since I first call Malaysia home. My hope for this country is to see more effort put into action for the betterment of its children; its extremely diverse, uniquely well-versed, multi-talented, mostly multi-linguistic children. (Mine are no exception)

As parents, we hope to have more well-kept and safe communal parks. A place for our children to have more outdoor activities, to play and be children; a place for parents and family to set up picnics and have a nice morning brunch or playdates; a place for many adults to simply lie down and unfold a book to read the afternoon away.

Happy Birthday Malaysia, better-cared children will make a better future. Happy Malaysia Day!


Azura Rahman :

I wish for a Malaysia for my children that is more inclusive. Where people of different backgrounds, abilities, cultures, political affiliations can come together and work things out. I wish for a Malaysia for them that is even better than mine.


Desiree Hersham Kaur :

I hope for a more inclusive Malaysia – regardless of race, religion, abilities and sexuality. The change starts with us. As a mother to a child with autism, I hope for a country that embraces the fact that he is different. And in turn, I hope, when my son is old enough to understand, that he will be proud to be Malaysian!


Lina Esa :

I wish for a more progressive, open-minded and safe (physically safe, and safe to express oneself) Malaysia for the future and for the younger generation. While there are amazing organisations and initiatives for early learning, they do cost a lot more. So it would reshape our future if every child had access to the same opportunities.

Better childcare and a public school framework that is not restricted entirely to academic performance would set the wheels in motion. This takes cues from countries with wildly successful outcomes and fulfilled families. This can only translate to happier workers and a healthier economy.

I think sex education is a must within this firmament, as well as freedoms for people to express themselves. I think certain laws that are too arcane also hinder us from moving forward, so they should be looked at. I also wish for a more fluid public transport system — does that sound weird? But it’s only because the most advanced countries have them in place, as it facilitates a better life and living environment.


A.M. :

Ever since I moved back to Malaysia over a decade and a half ago, I’ve heard the term “Malaysia Boleh”, but more often than not it’s peppered with a smirk or even outright disdain. Boleh je speed because there will be no consequences or you can always, you know, give the authorities some ‘duit kopi‘. Boleh je segregate based on race because “that’s the way it’s always been and maintains the harmony”. Boleh je allow men to marry children because of their “religious beliefs and because their families allow it”. Boleh je have billions change hands in the name of donations…you get where this is going. That being said, we’ve recently experienced a renewed bout of optimism (to some extent) after the most recent elections, and what I hope for Malaysia is for the ‘boleh’ to truly harness empowerment.

Empowerment to learn: constant self-improvement and knowledge-seeking. Empowerment to be accountable: no more lawlessness and consequences for your actions. Empowerment for humanity: to stand up for human rights, regardless of race, sex, orientation or creed. And all this to be instilled within our children from the start, building a culture that is not lackadaisical and instead something to be proud of. Malaysia is already culturally rich but at times it feels lost. Let’s get back on track. Boleh je… 


Ayuni Ayatillah :

I hope Malaysia progresses to become a family-centric society that believes in the holistic nurturing of our young ones, a society that supports parents’ efforts. The role of parents are of the utmost importance in bringing up a generation that is more compassionate, diverse, inclusive, responsible and patriotic.

Let’s celebrate and support the role of every mother and father in making Malaysia a safe and happy place for our children to call home.


Amanda Sura :

As a new parent, I hope that with a new Malaysia, people continue to have hope for a better future. That Malaysians will continue to fight and work hard for what they want to achieve and change. Let deams be made a reality for many. I yearn to see a Malaysia that values unity and respect amongst its people, with leaders who accept challenges without losing their empathy and steadfastness.


Jasbir Singh:

Our country is going through a period of change, which presents both opportunities and risks.
I hope the spirit of nationhood that we have seen this year will translate into meaningful change over the long term that will strengthen our institutions and mature our politics, so that our children live in a country where every citizen has a voice, access to a fair justice system and opportunities to achieve their full potential.


Sarah Sabaratnam :

My hope for Malaysia and Malaysians is that we will all learn to dream and take ownership of our nation and its future. We need to take a leaf out of the likes of people like young Heidy Quah who founded Refuge for Refugees or John-son Oei who founded Epic Homes or Tengku Zatasha Idris who started a #sayno2plastic social media campaign that changed attitudes towards single use plastics. Like them, we need to think, “How can I contribute to my community, to the needy and to the gaps I see around me?”

Rather than just criticise or complain, I hope we will think about volunteering, or pironeering or contributing resources towards making Malaysia the country of our dreams. It’s time to be vested and invested, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. The time for apathy and thinking only about ourselves has passed. A new dawn has risen in Malaysia. I hope we will be proactive and arise with it.

 


Do you have something to say as well? Write us at [email protected], or message us on Instagram!

Happy Malaysia Day! May all our dreams and hopes for our country come true. x

Empathy is a big buzz word in parenting, child-rearing and 21st century skills at the moment. We all know what it literally means, i.e. to understand someone else’s situation or feelings by putting yourself in their shoes. We all know it’s a good quality to have, and one we should encourage our children to have. But how do you really put it into practice?

  1. Show your own vulnerability

One of the things that most surprises children is when they realise their parents are not the demi-gods they always imagined, and I think this is particularly in Asian cultures. The stereotypical parent not only shelters their children from worries about things like health and finances, but focuses all conversations, questions and attention on their children. I went through my childhood blithely clueless that my parents lives didn’t revolve around just me. It never occurred to me to ask my parents how they were because it simply wasn’t part of the way we talked to each other.

Children need to learn, in an age-appropriate way, that you, too, have difficulties and concerns, which gives them the chance to show empathy towards you in a role-reversal that provides important lessons and experience in how to behave in society.

In the beginning, you may need to help them with how to do this, which can be as simple as, “How was your day, Daddy?”, “What can I do to help?” or “I’m sorry to hear that”. And then, when they do this, or you hear about them doing this with other people, it’s important to acknowledge and praise this, so they feel its value.

  1. Model conflict resolution

Most parents have the natural instinct to protect their children from unpleasant experiences, including arguments or fights between themselves. However, it’s inevitable that your children will witness some of this (and I would argue, actually, it’s healthy for kids to see adults disagreeing verbally, even if it’s a bit heated). In such situations, the important thing is to resolve the conflict in front of your child i.e. acknowledging wrongdoing, apologising, and saying what you will do (or try to do) in the future.

  1. Introduce charity into your child’s life

Here’s a little snippet of conversation between me and 5-year-old Alex when we passed a panhandler:

“Did that woman want some money?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Maybe she doesn’t have enough.”

“Do you have money?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you give her some money? You have to share.”

I was left dumbfounded by this exchange, because of course, he was right, but not at the right age for me to talk about more effective ways to provide charity and the possibility of being scammed. I mulled over this for a while, and think my friend Catherine has the right idea about this.

She gives her sons pocket money, and they divide the money up into three categories – Save, Spend, and Give. Hand in hand with this is a discussion about possibilities of who to give the money to, and this can then be expanded into focused research online on charitable organisations, whether local, regional or international. Depending on the age of your child, you may also want to go into how to find out how legitimate these are.

  1. Read books which encourage empathy

Books are a great gateway into conversations about the lives of others, so it’s a good idea to seek out books of different cultures and lives than your child’s own. Ones which we’ve looked at are:

Grace for Gus, by Harry Bliss

The Red Bicycle, by Jude Isabella and Simone Shin

Little White Duck, by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez

The Unforgotten Coat, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

People, by Peter Spier

The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi

At the Same Moment Around the World, by Clotilde Perrin

This Is How We Do It, by Matt Lamothe

The Heart and the Bottle, Oliver Jeffers

The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig

Mirror, Jeannie Baker

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio (this was recently made into a movie with Julia Roberts, also worth seeing)

Ask your child questions, and encourage them to ask questions, especially ones that get them to imagine themselves in those situations – How would they feel? What would they do? How is it different from their lives? How is it similar, despite the outward differences?

  1. Try hard things and value failure

Children have a tendency to avoid new situations and difficult tasks because most adults shower kids with praise which children then become addicted to. Besides the fact that we should encourage a growth mindset rather than a fixed one (read Carol Dweck to find out more), so that children associate failed attempts with opportunities for learning, failing more often will also make children more empathetic towards others who fail. If a child is always surrounded by peers who are privileged, well-supported and resourced, and groomed for ultimate success, they are more likely to view failure as laziness or a lack of intelligence. There is nothing less empathetic than an entitled, privileged person.

 

There’s so much emphasis on achievement and success, both in school and in life, that it’s important not to lose sight of the role that kindness and compassion play in making us human and humane. As parents, that’s something we have direct influence over our children, (as opposed to musical talent or an affinity for maths), and the more we bear that in mind and in our own behaviour, perhaps the less antagonistic and fraught our world would be.

 

By Uma

Uma is a Malaysian mum who works in teacher education. She has a six-year-old son, Alex, and currently lives in Singapore. 

To our Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Dear Datuk Seri,

We are readers of the site makchic.com, and mothers of Malaysia. Recently, we were so disturbed by cases affecting children and families that we wanted to write to you. Two cases – the death of 5-month-old Adam Rayqal Mohd Sufi, who was found dead inside a refrigerator at his babysitter’s house; and the marriage between a 11-year old girl and a man 30 years her senior – have completely saddened, upset, and angered us. More recently, a 10-month-old baby boy died in Johor after having fallen in his babysitter’s house.

In essence, these cases highlight various issues, concerns and challenges that mothers, families, women and especially children, go through in varying degrees every single day. Mothers are guardians and nurturers of our own children, but we deeply feel the need to stand up and protect the children, women and families of this nation – especially those who are less able to fight for their own rights.

We have been happy, enthused and hopeful that you are this country’s first woman Deputy Prime Minister. We have also been heartened that you, your deputy and other government leaders have affirmed your commitment to look into these issues, such as the move to set up child day-care centres at government agencies by January 1, and the special committee to monitor babysitters.

When we were asked about matters we wanted to bring to your attention, more than 80 of us took the time to write in and give our views.

We respectfully urge you as minister to consider the following points on the issues we feel strongly about that will come under your care.


Affordable and Safe Childcare

Mothers want affordable and safe childcare centres and options for working mothers, whether in government service or the private sector.

  • Many mothers expressed the wish to continue breastfeeding their children as long as possible, and this required adequate support, regulations and childcare facilities.
  • Most mothers want childcare centres or crèches within or near their work offices.
  • They want government subsidies for childcare fees, and subsidies or financial incentives for employers who have on-site crèches.
  • Mothers are aware that incomes determine what childcare options parents have. “Sadly, good ones are usually costly, so parents opt for kakak pengasuh or unlicensed childcare providers,” said Iryani Lob.
  • They also pointed out childcare centres’ opening hours. Mum Siti Nur Diyana Mohd Radzi pointed out: “Sometimes due to work conditions, parents will be late picking up the child from nursery and have to pay higher fees – this makes finding a ‘neighbourhood and flexible’ nanny more appealing.” Other mothers pointed out that there were those who worked shift hours, for example those who worked in retail and customer service or hotels.
  • Mothers also want a suitable ratio for the number of carers per child, depending on age and setting.
  • Some mothers also requested that CCTVs be installed or provided in childcare centres, so they would be able to monitor their children from time to time.

Trained and Qualified Childcare Practitioners

 “How many more cases such as the 5-month-old baby Adam do we have to wake up to read in the news? It’s devastating, horrific!” – Farisya Syamin Zulkifli

“Enforcement almost doesn’t seem to exist. This is key to act as a deterrent.” – Jane Lucia

  • Mothers wanted anyone working with children – whether in nurseries, schools, welfare homes or in any other capacity – to have proper criminal background checks. This should be required by law for the safety of all children in Malaysia.
  • Mothers wanted all nurseries and childcare centres to be monitored by a statutory body or regulatory authority for childminding and childcare, such as the United Kingdom’s Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) inspectors.
  • These child carers or centres would thus all have a rating, face surprise and regular inspections, and all their staff would have to be properly security-checked, qualified and trained, especially in matters like CPR, First Aid and fire safety.
  • Some mothers also requested that there be more certificate in childcare courses or workshops so childminders and even mothers themselves could benefit from this training.

Employers in the Private Sector

Some mothers clearly felt strongly about this topic. One said she felt like it was a “sin to be a mother”, the way they were treated at work. “We feel that the management regrets taking us moms as engineers in the company. The management doesn’t understand that we sometimes need to attend to our kids when our kids need to be sent to the clinic, because the nurseries call us when they are not feeling well. How can we progress in our career when management treats us like we only slow the progress of the project?”

  • Mothers wanted the government to encourage corporations to subsidise childcare or to compel them to institute family-friendly working options for mothers.
  • Many mothers had many requests for more flexible work arrangements, such as shorter or flexi-working hours. Mothers wanted employers not to penalise them if they asked for flexible arrangements, such as lesser pay for lesser hours spent in the office. “But workload and responsibilities (will) not change,” a mother said.
  • Other mothers said they would appreciate being able to work from home several days in a month. Others asked for half-days at work or half-week options for mothers. Some urged the government to institute legislation that ensure working mothers had a guaranteed job upon return from maternity leave.
  • Mother Aisya M. said: “I wish companies will be more pro-family, especially for mothers. Provide space for nurseries, they may opt to subsidise or not – as long as my child is near to me, I don’t mind paying.”

            Work-life Balance

  • Mostly, mothers wanted empathy and understanding about having a work-life balance. A mother asked for there to be an enforcement about work hours, as many workers tended to stay much longer than the normal working hours of 9 to 5pm. One mother said: “I come in at 7am daily. Official work hours start at 8.30am, ends at 5.45pm. But I still can’t leave early, even though I come in early.”
  • There were also some mentions of employer understanding when mothers and fathers had to bring their children to the clinic or hospital, some urging companies not to ‘cut their wage or leave’ if this happens. A mother said: “My baby was admitted for a week, and my annual leave was not enough, and they made me take unpaid leave – this affected our financial situation.”
  • Some mothers also wanted the government and employers to consider family leave or similar options, as many had to care for other elderly or ill family members, as well as children with special needs.

Children’s Rights – End Child Marriages

  • Our mothers want enforced laws about early child marriage and stringent punishment for paedophiles and equivalent offenders.
  • Standardise the law. Anyone who wants to marry (Muslim or non-Muslim) must be 18 years old and above in Malaysia regardless of your nationality, otherwise the marriage is considered void,” mum Najila Suhana said.
  • Mothers wanted severe punishment and tighter regulations and procedural examinations for child abuse and similar crimes against children.
  • They urge the government to work towards having laws, policies, systems, and practices that promote children’s rights as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  • Mothers want a sexual offender registration list implemented in Malaysia. Mother Adelina Hayden suggested that we should look into legislation in line with ‘Adam’s Law’ in the United States. In 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed into law in the US, creating a national sexual offender registry that organised sexual offenders into 3 tiers, and requires offenders to update their whereabouts.
  • Several mothers wanted a ban on marriages in neighbouring countries. “This issue has been going on for ages, but nothing has been done.
  • Offenders should also be charged for grooming a child. Social services and welfare authorities must step in when a complaint has been made, and restraining orders placed if required, said mother Belinda D.

Maternity & Paternity Leave

It’s time to acknowledge fathers as being able to care for babies. It’s 2018.” – Dini Nadzaruddin

A lot of modern day parents only have each other.”

  • Overall, mothers were vocal about the need for longer maternity leave. They said it should be longer than the current 60 days given as they wanted to spend time with their young babies. “Will the 90 days maternity leave which was announced by the previous government going to be implemented? If yes, when?” asked one mother.
  • Some mothers requested that maternity leave be increased, with full pay for up to 6 months leave, or for 3 months split between the mother and father. “This will bring the family closer by giving both parents a chance to bond with their children.”
  • Mothers were also firm in their demands for paternity leave, some sharing their experiences. “My husband only got one day (of) leave after my delivery (we’re both working in private sector),” said Afiqah Zulkifli. “For some reason, we forget about the fathers. I think fathers also need longer leave. Mothers need a lot of support from their husband while they recover from giving birth especially those without support from family or those who cannot afford help,” said Jihan Razak.

Education

Unsurprisingly, mothers were concerned about the education their children received in schools. They also wanted their children armed with knowledge about sex, grooming, and how to protect themselves.

  • Across the board, our mothers said it was important for Malaysia to include sex education in schools. “They deserve a right to know, for the sake of their future … (It) is not encouraging our kids to have sex, it is quite the opposite. The more they know, the more likely they say no,” a mother said.
  • Some mothers urged the government to provide education and awareness, or conduct campaigns about sexual grooming in rural areas.  “(This is) so people understand it is not a norm for your girls to be deprived of their virginity without even being old enough to understand their self-worth and what sexual intercourse in a marriage means.”
  • There were mothers who spoke about the importance of lessons on gender equality. Some said that their husbands were still ignorant about household chores, and that this role still fell heavily on women’s shoulders. A mother said it was important to educate boys from an early age that looking after a household was a job for both sexes, and they could be taught how to cook, sweep floors or fold clothes. “I believe school is the best platform to deliver this. Perhaps they can include this in co-curricular programmes,” she said.
  • Most of all, mothers wanted a great education system overall for their children. They wanted higher quality teachers and educators. Some noted the importance of early childhood education. “If ‘children are the future’ then we have to be serious about investing in early childhood care and education”, said a mother.

Mental Health Awareness and Education

  • Mothers wanted more attention paid to women’s mental health. They wanted compulsory postpartum check-ups by doctors for mothers’ well-being.
  • Some mothers pointed out that they had experienced the ‘baby blues’. They wanted the government to have classes or support for all mothers after birth, so they could recognise and seek help for postpartum depression.

Children with Special Needs

  • Some mothers wanted primary schools to work closely with child psychiatrists and occupational therapists so they could identify and deal with children with learning difficulties and special needs.
  • A mother said: “My 7-year-old daughter could not cope with mainstream school stress and requirements due to her developmental delay problem even after 2 years of occupational therapy. Right now, her teachers do not even know what developmental delay is.”
  • Ng Tze Yeng said there should be the regulation of service providers such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists. “They need to work closely with the Ministry of Health. A lot of damage may be done to kids by unethical practitioners.”

Single-mothers and lower-income mothers

  • Knowing how tough motherhood and parenting is, our mothers called for more benefits and support for single mothers and those from lower-income groups. These mothers should be given free day care options, or provided mentoring or counselling sessions to support their emotional and mental wellbeing.
  • “Their kids should have equal opportunities and be well taken care of. These kids are the ones usually forgotten and sucked into the loopholes of sex abuse and unprotected sex. Moms of this spectrum struggle to make ends meet,” a mother said.

Refugees

  • Our mothers noted that Malaysia offers few protections for refugees, and it is often children who bear the brunt of restrictions on education, work and the fear of arrest.
  • They called on the government to sign the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention or enact laws or policies to ensure the rights of refugees, and to ensure they lead better lives in the country. This is so that families “escaping their war-torn homes and seeking refuge in Malaysia do not have to live in poverty, extortion, and fear of raids and detention.”

 

More Women in Government

As one of our mothers put it: “(We need) more women in the government who can put themselves in other women’s shoes, so they can make and insist (for) better policies for women!


Datuk Seri Wan Azizah, we thank you very much for your attention to this letter from mothers. We are excited about your leadership of this ministry, and are optimistic about the future. We hope you will consider these points that have come from our hearts, and carry our hopes for a country where all women, families and children are safe, supported and thriving.

 

Sincerely,

Makchic readers – mothers of Malaysia

 

If you support this letter and agree with the points made, please help us share this letter with the hashtag #mumsofmalaysiawant so more decision makers, employers, community leaders and members of the public can read it. Thank you to all our mummies for voicing their opinions and suggestions, include yours by supporting this letter today.