“Doing everything wearing gloves is by no means easy,” says Eirliani Abdul Rahman. Lighting a flame or tying a bow is particularly tricky. But it is something she has to endure, because training with gloves on is an important part of her preparations for the expedition taking her across the North Pole. The battle against the everlasting ice, which she intends to begin in April, is designed to draw attention to another, much more important battle against child trafficking and the sexual abuse of children and young people. “I have to do something out of the ordinary if I would like to raise awareness on these issues,” says Eirliani. Should she succeed, she will be the first Singapore national to ski to the North Pole (Crowdfunding of the expedition: https://gogetfunding.com/lins-100-mile-ski-to-the-north-pole/)
Children’s rights have always been a groundbreaking issue for her even from an early age – also due to the fact that she herself was a victim of sexual assault when she was young. Today, the former diplomat, whose career began in Berlin, is professionally committed to helping children – as a foundation director, NGO founder and author. Her work is consistently supported by the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. This corporate foundation of the BMW Group inspires people in leading positions worldwide to assume social responsibility and commit themselves as responsible leaders to a peaceful, just and sustainable future.
The fundamental motivation for Eirlianis commitment is most likely Eirliani’s contact and friendship with Kailash Satyarthi. For almost 40 years now, Satyarthi has fought for the rights and education of children ((https://twentythirty.com/the-impact-of-childhood-experiences/). In 2014, the India-born activist was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Eirliani takes Kailash Satyarthi’s commitment as an example. She established NGO YAKIN, a contact point for child victims and adult survivors of child sexual abuse, and assumed the position of Programme Director of Satyarthi’s foundation in the US. From then on, she has focused on the fight against child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking. “Material poverty, long journeys to school and, sometimes, simple disregard for the girl child result in children being deprived of the chances for a good future. Young people often have to suffer particularly bitterly: instead of being able to go to school, they are forced to work in the sex trade,” she says.
Last year, Eirliani organised the 2nd Laureates & Leaders for Children Summit initiated by the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation, for which more than 450 Nobel Peace Prize winners, politicians and decision makers came together to coordinate their efforts in the fight against child abuse. They were supported by three BMW Group senior executives and two FastLaners who are socially committed within the framework of the Leadership Development Programme, ReadyGo. “We were able to assist with the organisation of the conference using our know-how in the financing sector and with our classic competence in the area of mobility, thereby positioning a detailed value story,” says Gaston Streiger, Head of Planning, Steering U-Division, UP MINI, Rolls-Royce, BMW Motorrad, Customer Engagement and Digital Business Innovation of the BMW Group.
“Senior executives of a company as large as the BMW Group have a different perspective on running operations or looking at issues in a much smaller NGO,” says Eirliani, summarising the cooperation. “I was very impressed with the team’s professionalism and efficiency.”
Eirliani enjoys a close relationship with the BMW Foundation, having been a member since 2010. In 2015, she was a winner of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Awards.
She also has the support of the BMW Foundation in promoting her book “Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse”, in which she has compiled the recollections of five male and seven female adult survivors of sexual abuse. Furthermore, the BMW Foundation financed a book reading tour last year that led Eirliani and other survivors who contributed to the book to different locations, from Yale University in the US to Montreal in Canada to Pretoria, South Africa.
“Companies have a huge responsibility to take action against child abuse and child labour,” Eirliani believes. “It is the responsibility of any corporate group to examine its supply chain in order to be able to completely rule out child labour although I’m aware that it will be difficult to go beyond first-tier suppliers.” She added that this required people who are passionate about bringing the necessary awareness to companies. Gaston Streiger has currently assumed the role of an ambassador at the BMW Group Munich location. “Many of us live in a prosperity bubble. I was very shocked to discover what was happening to children all over the world,” the manager comments. In order to provide educational information, he now organises events dealing with this topic. In doing so, he is also hopeful of a book reading by Eirliani Abdul Rahman. However, this will probably not be possible until after she has returned from her North Pole expedition.