The African Telecommunication Union (ATU) and Child Online Africa (COA) will host the first ever Africa Week of Action for Child Online Protection (AWA4COP) that will focus on rallying African countries to keep the momentum and continue creating awareness on Child Online Protection in order to safeguard the well-being, integrity, and safety of African children online. This week of action will run from 7th to 11th June 2021 under theme, ‘Make Child Online Protection Visible’.
The Child Online Protection (COP) Initiative is a multi-stakeholder network launched by the International Telecommunication Union (a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for all matters related to information and communication technologies) that brings together children, parents and educators, stakeholders in the ICT industry and policymakers, to create a safe and empowering online experience for children and young people around the world.
In explaining the significance and the urgency of the campaign, ATU Secretary General Mr. John OMO highlighted the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased use of digital technologies and internet by African children which in turn has led to increased exposure of our children online making them more vulnerable.
“Now more than ever, our African children are vulnerable to online criminals and offenders creating an urgent need for protecting them. It is for this reason that we want to work with African countries to ensure child online protection,” he said.
Starting this year, the Africa Week of Action for Child Online Protection (AWA4COP) will be an annual campaign that will be taking place every 2nd week of June. For this inaugural campaign, Child Online Africa and the African Telecommunications Union will work together to rally the Civil Society and the Non-Governmental Organizations to join them in this call to action.
Speaking about the campaign, Mrs. Awo Aidam Amenyah, Executive Director of Child Online Africa urged stakeholders to participate and support the campaign as the results will contribute to the realization of Agenda 2030, Agenda 2040, Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the Digital Transformation strategy for Africa on the back of the historic General Comment 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which reinforces Children’s rights in the digital world. “This campaign is in line with ATU and COA’s broad vision of ensuring the wellbeing of the African child. The initiative has practical tools to assist stakeholders such as African Governments, teachers and parents in addressing concerns of African children in the digital world,” she said.
Among other things, the initiative also promotes digital skills on online safety for children and young people and empowers them with knowledge on how to exercise their rights online as well as manage online risks.
For this inaugural campaign, Child Online Africa and African Telecommunication Union are urging African countries to consider the Child Online Protection Guidelines as a solid foundation on which the Governments can develop inclusive, multi-stakeholder national strategies for online child protection. Among the recommendations ATU and COA are urging African Governments to consider, include: Develop a national strategy for Child Online Protection to include actions to be taken against perpetrators of violence and abuse of children; Build capacity for frontline workers regarding online-related risks; Initiate a multi-stakeholder approach for country-level implementation of strategies.
It would also ensure a dedicated and easy-to-use channel for reporting incidents and counselling; Commit resources to the various sectors of Child Protection to mainstream Online Safety concerns while making it effective; Listen and respond to the voices of those affected and; Create an enabling environment for individuals and civil society to voice their concerns and seek redress in matters of child online abuse.