KOTA KINABALU: A list of recommendations to end Sabah’s stateless children issue will be presented to the state government by the second quarter next year.
The recommendations will be drawn up based on a study by a group led by the United Nations Country Team.
Others in the group are Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Institute for Development Studies Sabah.
United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) representative to Malaysia, Marianne Clark Hattingh said the state government was very supportive of the efforts and initiatives to solve the issue.
“We are glad that this issue is finally being looked at from a different angle, and that the state government is willing to solve the problem.
“We have been talking about this but there is not much progress, maybe because the previous thinking was that this is a security issue and nothing more,” she said after a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal here on Tuesday.
Hattingh said things had changed and the issue was being treated as a human rights, development and economic issue.
“These children (hopefully) can finally have the opportunity to get education and other important rights that would help in the country’s socio-economic development,” she said.
She added that Shafie expressed his interest and willingness to work together with the relevant agencies to come up with a feasible solution.
Separately, Hattingh said Unicef maintained that 18 should be the minimum age of marriage without any exception.
She said a legislation itself was not enough as those in the vulnerable target groups need to be made aware of the dangers of early sexual reproduction linked to child marriage.
“We need to find ways to educate the people that their children should be allowed to finish at least their secondary school.
“We need a social support system that can help us reach out to these vulnerable groups and make them realise that dropping out of school and marrying at an early age is not the way to end poverty or teen pregnancy,” she said.
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