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“I am now for all intents and purposes, a child activist”

Dr Hartini Zainuddin – Child Rights Activist – Malaysian – Founder of Yayasan Chow Kit (Interviewed in 2017)

HARTINI REMEMBERS WELL WHAT HER PARENTS said to her when she was young. The world, my father used to say, is unfair. It is up to every one of us to try and help ourselves, first, and then help others. And her mother said “Always be kind and good to others. You can judge a person by the way he or she treats a person of service.”

So Hartini listened, watched and muddled through life, looking for a way to make a mark,
to champion and protect the vulnerable and the marginalised.

“I believe that all children have a right to love, live and have a meaningful and loving life, growing up. I believe that no matter how poor, all children deserve enough food to eat, access to the best public education out there, the right to a family and identity, and to play.”

Hartini spent 20 years working abroad before returning to Malaysia in 2001. She realised she had come full circle and here was where she wanted to be and the children in Chow Kit were the cause and my life’s purpose. “Fighting for rights of marginalised children, carving out the safe space for them, was how I wanted to lend my voice and speak out. There was no time to be meek or wait for things to happen. I had to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and pitch in” she says.

“I’m a single working mum, with three children. It has its challenges. Homework, cooking, cleaning, PTA meetings with teachers, grocery shopping and court appearances, but it’s a rich life and a good life with few regrets, and hope for the children. Things aren’t always going to be perfect and you’re never going to get it right the first few times but always try and never be afraid.”

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