Founder of Spot Community Programme
Siti Aishah Hassan Hasri strongly believes prevention is better than cure. The founder of the Spot (Soroptimist Puberty Organising Toolkit) champions the provision of comprehensive sexuality education for youths through age-appropriate and culturally sensitive approaches in the interest of preventing sexual abuse and exploitation. The Spot Community Programme encourages a positive attitude towards reproductive health, bodily autonomy, personal and social development.
Increasing rates of underage sexual assault, minors engaging in sexual activities, unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and baby dumping among youths in Malaysia warrant effective action. “Children are one-third of our population and all of our future. We need to ensure our children are protected, educated and loved,” the Prestige 40 Under 40 alumna says.
The young advocate implores Malaysians not to turn a blind eye but to know the laws and do their part. “Under the Child Act, reporting suspected physical or emotional abuse is mandatory if you are a doctor, family member or childcare provider. Failure to do so makes you liable for a fine of up to RM5,000 or imprisonment up to 2 years. As a Malaysian citizen, you are legally obliged to report child sexual abuse, including grooming, regardless of your relationship to the victim,” Aishah explains.
While parents struggle to talk to their kids about sex, Aishah knows there is no room for discomfort in teaching children about consent and boundaries to avoid tragic outcomes. “I was a child in need of support, and so I make it my mission to make sure children get the help they need in my capacity as an educator and citizen. It is my duty to help,” she says, having launched Spot back in 2014.
Aishah offers parents and guardians a crucial piece of advice to help keep children safe and raise resilient young people with self- respect. “Sexuality education is a life-long lesson that starts with simple concepts and builds over time as your child’s capacity to understand increases. It begins by laying the foundations with young children. Teach kids to learn to say no to things that make them uncomfortable and differentiate safe touches from unsafe touches,” she elaborates.
“Your attitude with how you approach your children when discussing these topics matters so set the right tone,” Aishah tells parents. She notes the importance of getting educated and instilling family values with calmness, respect and an open manner. “Your children will ask questions, so you need to be prepared with answers. Make sure to let them know that they can always ask you anything and that they will not get in trouble, and you can make sure they are getting the right information,” she says.
“With knowledge and the right attitude towards sexual and reproductive health and rights, young people are actively choosing to delay sexual intercourse and practise safe sex,” the advocate observes. Spot has developed teaching modules for boys, secondary school students and created thoughtful puberty education-related products to help children and parents.
You need to tell people how you want to be treated. If someone does not listen to you when you say no, they are not worth your time or love. Walk away.Siti Aishah Hassan Hasri
In 2020, Spot published Puberty Activity designed for children aged 9-12 that covers the basics of puberty. The eBook, available in English and Malay, explains basic anatomy, physical and emotional changes, hygiene routine tips, the importance of self-love, peer pressure, healthy relationship building skills and guidance on staying safe online. The lessons were derived from interactions with children engaged in Spot Community Programme sessions in schools between 2016 and 2019.
Proceeds from eBook sales help run the Spot’s programmes, offered freely through the participation of volunteers. “A major challenge continues to be finding and retaining the talent required for Spot to keep growing, alongside bread-and-butter issues like funding and dealing with the effects of the pandemic,” Aishah admits. She hopes to inspire volunteers to step forward to contribute their time and skills. “Support us by sharing our social media content on your platforms,” she appeals.
As a woman committed to supporting women, Aishah guides young women to learn to love themselves and protect their boundaries. “You need to tell people how you want to be treated. If someone does not listen to you when you say no, they are not worth your time or love. Walk away. Always remember that life is about being confident in making a series of good decisions. Learn how to make them. Your future self will love you for it,” she advises.
The women in Aishah’s family life were significant sources of inspiration to her. “Both my grandmothers were my role models. One was a politician and the other a community organiser. One was a child-bride and the other illiterate. One was the wife of an army officer and the other a police officer. They were both amazing grassroots activists and had contributed so much to the communities they work with, with strong humility and audacious leadership skills,” Aishah says with pride. She is confident of her activism and the impact it has on raising the strong women of tomorrow.