Written by Vivian Cheung, Legal Case Manager of PathFinders
Today is Universal Children’s Day, an important date signifying the world’s commitment to protect all children.
60 years ago, on 20 November 1959, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which recognises, among other rights, children’s rights to education, play, a supportive environment and health care.
30 years ago, on 20 November 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) took effect as the first comprehensive document setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all children regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status. It also sets out how adults and governments should act together to protect the rights of children. With 196 state parties, including Hong Kong who ratified it in 1994, the Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
At PathFinders, we believe these rights should be protected and respected, and that all children should have a fair start to life. Sadly, the majority of children born to Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) are often deprived of their basic human rights (including the right to timely birth registration, education and health, family life, and access to justice) because of their immigration status. Unless one of their parents is a permanent resident in Hong Kong, they are not be entitled to permanent residency. Some FDW mothers’ contract was terminated when they fell pregnant, and some of them subsequently overstayed and sought asylum due to a fear of returning to their home country with a child born out of wedlock. For the mothers who are still in their employment contract, their children can only remain for the duration of such contract (each lasts two years), and as their mothers are required to live with their employers who have no obligation to house the children, arrangements for their care become very challenging.
PathFinders has a passionate, non-judgmental, dedicated team to help these children and their FDW mothers in desperate need, to overcome financial constraints and language barrier, obtain birth certificates and proper documentation, access the courts and healthcare, and receive necessary vaccinations as well as education. We also educate and guide the FDW mothers from when they become pregnant of their maternity rights and options so as to empower them to make the best decision and choose the best path for their children.
Today is the day to celebrate the advancement the world has achieved for all children. However, it is also a day to remember there are still children in Hong Kong who might yet to have their rights realised, and we should do more to protect them.
The World Mental Health Month, held in October each year, gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health.
This year, PathFinders supported the Green Ribbon Campaign organised by the OCD & Anxiety Support Hong Kong (OCDAHK). Green is the colour of mental health and represents balance, strength, and hope. Wearing green reassures sufferers that they are not alone and breaks down stigma associated with mental illness.
Lisa Ringner-Näckter, Access to Healthcare Programme Manager of PathFinders, said, “Due to all the struggles that our clients are facing, their mental health is often compromised. We’d like help them by early intervention and follow up arrangements with external professionals if needed. When we spot a client is at risk of depression, we offer to take her to Maternal and Child Health Centre for follow ups.”
“To help those with no access to public healthcare, we collaborate with Central Health Medical Practice and receive valuable guidance from Mind HK. The Follow ups are crucial not only for the mother, but also for her to be able to look after her newborn child,” she said.
On August 25th, 2019, the first participants of our “Train The Trainers” for Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) Programme successfully completed their training to become PathFinders’ ambassadors in the FDWs community.
Recently launched by our Community Engagement team, the aim of the Programme is to equip FDWs with key knowledge on love scams, maternity rights and prevention of unplanned pregnancy, as well as effective communication skills, so that they can reach out and support the wider FDWs community with crucial and accurate information for making well-informed decisions.
In the final session of the 6-hour training, we were honoured to have Virgilio Lumicao, associate editor of The SUN HK, Catherine Gurtin, our CEO and Lara Fabregas, our Board Member, as our panelists who provided feedback on the participants’ presentation on what they had learnt.
Our new ambassadors, many of whom key leaders in migrant worker groups and initiatives in Hong Kong, will continue to receive our guidance in their endeavours to engage, educate and empower fellow FDWs through outreach activities.