The 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is coming up. Has anything changed in Malaysia?

There's a simple reason why children’s rights issues never seem relevant – people don’t know about them.

According to Indra Kumari Nadchatram, United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Malaysia’s communication specialist, the lack of knowledge on children’s rights is causing some children to be mistreated; and that stops them from realising their true potential as citizens who can contribute positively to the nation.

And that’s why Unicef Malaysia is hosting Picture My Rights, a competition to promote children’s rights – and discourse about it – through photography.

The contest was launched last month, and has already seen some powerful photo entries which can all be viewed on the competition’s website (picturemyrights.unicef.my).

Children aged 13-17 can participate as well by submitting an original photo representing what their rights mean to them on the competition website before the deadline, Oct 10.

The Picture My Rights website, where children aged 13-17 can submit entries for the photography competition, and find out more about their rights.

What makes the competition challenging is that participants’ photos have to be taken based on the following key areas in children’s rights – dignity, survival, development, safety, and participation.

“These five key areas broadly covers the 42 articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC),” Indra said.

In 1989, the United Nations adopted the CRC – written by a group of child experts – because national constitutions weren’t always good enough to protect the rights of children.

To this day, the CRC acts as a guideline for Unicef to ensure the needs of children around the world are being met, so they can have a chance for a good future. Picture My Rights was organised by Unicef Malaysia in conjunction with the CRC’s 25th anniversary.

“Children need extra rights and protection because they are particularly vulnerable,” said Indra.

A lack of awareness of children’s rights around the world has led to children being deprived of proper living conditions, education and their freedom of expression.

One way to improve awareness, said Indra, is for people to start learning more about children’s rights.

“Take computer gaming as an example. If I don’t learn anything about it, I won’t be able to promote it. I wouldn’t even know where to start!” she said.

The Star’s BRATs young journalist programme has thrown its support behind Unicef Malaysia’s efforts by acting as its media partner to promote the Picture My Rights competition.

“As teen journalists, we definitely feel we should be helping to educate people about our rights, and that of our peers,” said Denielle Leong, a member of the BRATs committee. “We’re quite privileged to have a platform where we can speak up about such issues, so that’s exactly what we hope to do now – to help Unicef Malaysia start a conversation about children’s rights.”

To find out more about children’s rights, go to picturemyrights.unicef.my, where you can also submit an entry to the Picture My Rights competition. The five lucky winners will get a Samsung digital camera, a five-day photography workshop with renowned humanitarian photographer Giacomo Pirozzi and the chance to have their photos featured in a public exhibition in The School, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.