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Keeping Keningau Migrant Kids Safe
January 25 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Global Shepherds has been working with alternative and community learning centres to protect children from sexual abuse.
Thanks to Vinodh Pillai, UNICEF for this Article. It is being re-produced from this link:
KENINGAU: Exploitation, violence, neglect, child marriage and child labour – these are just some of the issues migrant children in Keningau, a district south of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, have to deal with as they live out their childhood.
Thankfully, Jellferlyne Joseph and her team of social worker colleagues from the Global Shepherds non-profit are here to help. Throughout the pandemic, they promoted safe environments for the Filipino, Indonesian and undocumented communities here.
In collaboration with six alternative and community learning centres, Global Shepherds worked towards raising more awareness about child rights, preventing child sexual abuse, empowering women and children and promoting the importance of child protection.
They did this by organising personal safety and self-protection-themed workshops (for adolescents, parents, teachers and community leaders), follow-up social worker visits and child protection committees in each learning centre.
Besides providing an education, alternative and community learning centres (which cater to marginalised youth and children not in the formal education system) provide some form of safety for the children, who may otherwise live within communities in isolated remote areas.
With their parents out working, sometimes doing multiple jobs so they can put food on the table, migrant and undocumented children are often left at home alone. Living in isolation, however, increases their vulnerability to neglect, violence and exploitation.
Working with these centres has been crucial in ensuring the success of the programme; the students trust their teachers, who are part of the community. The programme also ropes in senior students to conduct some trainings, making it sustainable for the long haul.
“From there, the relationship with the community is built, the trust (as well), and they are more open to… come to our programmes,” Jellferlyne said, adding that Global Shepherds also provided food aid to the learning centres they worked with.
Global Shepherds also built the capacity of the learning centres’ teachers. Through them, Mary Ann Enriquez, principal of the Home of Persuaded Education Community Learning Centre, learnt how to counsel and help students who came to her for help.
At Mary Ann’s centre, her students, comprising mostly children and teenagers of Filipino descent, learnt how to protect themselves from violence and abuse, and to identify a safety support system. Parents, too, were roped in to enhance these protections at home.
“I always encourage them to (report these instances to the authorities) because that is how we protect ourselves,” Mary Ann told UNICEF in a recent interview. “Even though we have no papers, we must speak up; if we keep quiet, the harassments will continue.”
Mary Ann, 40, was appreciative of the support she received from Global Shepherds and its team, saying her students and their parents are now more aware about child rights and have a better understanding of human rights as a whole – thanks to them.
She is particularly happy about the newfound role her secondary school-leavers have now. The project saw the setting up of a youth group where they are trained on child protection; previously, teachers were the ones conducting the programme.