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Protecting Refugee Children through Community Focal Points in Malaysia

HOST International’s Team in Malaysia recently conducted two training sessions with twenty (20) Community Focal Points from the Rohingya and Myanmar Muslim Communities in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor in Malaysia. The training was held at the Rohingya Society of Malaysia office and the Rohingya Women’s Development Network Centre in December 2020.

The training was delivered as part of a capacity building project focussed on protecting children affected by migration in Southeast, South, and Central Asia. This project is implemented by UNICEF and HOST International, and co-funded by the European Union and UNICEF.

We believe that the best way to build protection capacity for vulnerable communities is to identify and strengthen resources with that community and to leverage any local assets. Therefore HOST has identified 20 Community Focal Points who are responsible representatives of the local refugee population who have agreed to champion child rights within their community and to partner with local NGO’s and child protection authorities to ensure children are able to access protection when needed. We have also partnered with a local child welfare provider to support this work.

These training sessions focussed on providing information about child welfare needs, protection issues and case management approaches. The group was also provided with some training about community asset mapping as they will assist us to identify local resources (assets) that are available to families and children.

There are over 47,000 refugee children living in Malaysia while they await resettlement or return to their home country. These children and their families face many challenges including food insecurity, poor housing, and risk of immigration detention. Some children are also at risk of child marriage, exploitation and trafficking. Through this work we hope to increase access to early detection of child protection risk and enhance support networks available to refugee communities in Malaysia.

It is unusual to engage community members in this way and to remunerate them for their costs. Typically support and child protection services, if available, are provided by international or local charities and often refugees miss out because of their ‘illegal’ status in most countries of asylum. We believe this approach will strengthen local community based advocates for refugee children and help build culturally appropriate protective factors within communities.

“I have learned so many things from this role. There are so many child marriages out there and I hope we can stop this child marriage and bring changes in our community” Rohingya Refugee Participant

We are excited to have this team of 20 local refugees working with us and look forward to seeing the fruits of their work.

14th January 2021

This news article was produced with the financial support of the European Union under the “Protecting Children affected by migration in Southeast, South and Central Asia” project. Its contents are the sole responsibility of HOST International and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNICEF or the European Union.

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