By LAY HSUAN, LIM
During the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, we witnessed the significance of Olympic torches being passed on by former British Olympians to seven young British athletes (each nominated by the veterans), who then headed over to the Olympic cauldron to light it.
The heart-warming moment symbolises how the young ones are the torchbearers and leaders of the future. Not only do they carry the vision, but our hopes and dreams too.
White canvas in a child’s world
We have seen much traction of news related to these young lives lately, especially children, who are considered one of the more vulnerable members of the community.
Malaysia hosted the Global Child Forum (GCF) on Southeast Asia for the first time here in early May 2016. We, then, observed International Children’s Day on June 1, followed by World Day Against Child Labour on June 12.
Not forgetting the horrific news on how our children have been manipulated and “sexploited” by paedophiles and perverted individuals, with many of them still roaming free because of our own failures in the legal system to protect the children.
Remapping our stakeholders
In mapping our stakeholders in the business, we don’t usually think of children as part of the ecosystem, unless we run child-centred organisations like kindergartens, schools and theme parks like Disneyland and Legoland.
According to Children’s Rights and Business Principles guideline by UNICEF, children are key stakeholders of the business. They are not only our consumers, but family members of employees, young workers, future talent pipeline and business leaders too.
Corporate leaders and decision makers sitting on the board need to start recognising the vital roles they play in understanding how their businesses impact our children and the generations to come.
Collectively, we need to realise that it is beyond just eliminating child labour and having child-friendly workplaces, even though those are great to start with.
It is about being mindful of every business decision we make by considering its impact on children. It is by seeing the organisation through a child’s eyes, and with children’s best interests at heart.
To run sustainable long-term initiatives, leaders at the top need to drive home the message first. It’s the message that children are our investment to business sustainability. It’s the message that we need to set business actions to respect and support children’s rights as listed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A small puzzle piece to fit into the bigger picture
At Leaderonomics, we believe in sowing good seeds of leadership from a young age. Being in the business of cradle-to-grave leadership development, we are guided by our leadership philosophy where we aim to see a person go through these three stages of leadership as he/she grows: foundational, emerging and executing (see Figure 1).
That is why we have DIODE Kids leadership camps where we do our bit to develop children’s character based on principled values and life experiences. We believe those few early years are the best years to build the right foundation before life gets more “complicated.”
As the Malay proverb, “melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya,” we should start cultivating good values from an early age.
After contemplating for two years, I finally signed up as a co-facilitator for my first-ever DIODE camp (I started with DIODE Kids) which happened last June. It was refreshing to be around children after my not-so-successful attempt to handle a group of children in crèche some years ago.
I went with a guided “why” goal in mind, i.e. to impart and empower these children. Though I was the quieter one around, I gave as best as I could (or so I hope!) to help them see the priceless intangibles they take home with—their self-worth.
At the end of the camp, I went home feeling blessed by their presence and energy, as I was reminded again that these young lives will one day be history makers and game changers.
In essence, children are God’s gifts to us. We aren’t permanent owners of these gifts, but we are called to become great stewards of them. We all have a role to play in ensuring children are well safeguarded and treated with respect at all times.
So, even as an organisation, have them close to your heart and keep the torch burning!
Quotes from the leaders present at GCF
“Our wish is for businesses to take child rights seriously—to take it to the board room.” —Ulf Karlberg, Chairman of Global Child Forum Advisory Board
“How can we remove children from manufacturing if their families need the income? Thus, how do we address the root cause of child labour?” —Per Heggenes, chief executive officer of IKEA Foundation
“Government and companies need to work closely. . .to ensure that information dissemination is done correctly.” —Albern Murthy, CEO of Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd
“Investing in children is investing for the future of the country” —Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development
“Governments create the legal systems to protect children’s rights. But they cannot create the change themselves, society needs to create the change. Within the society, the business sector is the sector that employs the people, supports, and puts demand in education, and create change.” —Ase Backstrom, Managing director of Global Child Forum
“It’s more than just child labour. A child has a right to education, to play, to be listened to, to be a child. Do we do that?” —Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, co-initiator of the Global Child Forum