Willy Buloso, Regional Coordinator for Africa, ECPAT International
The 3rd African Girls’ Summit was held in Niamey, Niger, from 16th to 18th November 2021. As a platform that convenes stakeholders across Africa on girls’ rights and wellbeing, it brought together representatives from 35 African Union Member States, more than 100 Young Adolescent Girls and more than 1,500 stakeholders.
The theme for the 2021 summit was: “Culture, Human Rights and Accountability – Accelerating Elimination of Harmful Practices”, with the goal of providing a platform for sharing good practices, evidence and data to shift and galvanize action towards the elimination of harmful practices in Africa.
As part of the summit, ECPAT International’s Willy Buloso, Regional Coordinator for Africa, participated in the panel session on ‘Global and Regional Overview of Online Child Protection and Cybercrimes’. As internet and ICT services expand in Africa, more people including children are spending considerable time online, often unaware of any potential harm hence increasing their vulnerability to various cyber crimes including online sexual exploitation and abuse. The objective of the session was to:
Discuss regional and national laws and frameworks to protect children against cybercrimes and online sexual exploitation of children.
Discuss best practices, challenges, and gaps as well as strategies and partnerships for prevention and response towards the protection of children against cyber crime
To highlight the best practices (experiences/initiatives) from children, particularly on their role in reinforcing the legal framework for the protection of children against cyber-crime, specifically online sexual exploitation.
Prioritize strengthening multi-sectoral partnerships to enhance the online safety of children
Identify actionable and clear recommendations for different stakeholders
During the session, Willy shared key findings on online child sexual exploitation and abuse from the Disrupting Harm: Kenya and Disrupting Harm: Uganda reports, a collaborative study conducted by ECPAT, INTERPOL, UNICEF Office of Research, and their networks.
Some of the findings from Disrupting Harm: Kenya report include:
Internet-using children in Kenya are subjected to OCSEA. Most offenders are someone the child already knows. These crimes can happen online or in person but involve technology.
Among those who were subjected to OCSEA, Facebook and WhatsApp were the most common social media platforms where this occurred.
The law enforcement, justice, and social support systems need greater awareness, capacity, and resources to respond to cases of OCSEA.
Important OCSEA-related legislation, policies, and standards are yet to be enacted in Kenya.
In Uganda, the Disrupting Harm: Uganda report uncovered that:
Boys and girls were equally likely to experience online sexual exploitation and abuse. Yet 98% of reports were made by girls. This is very concerning, as it may indicate boys are not reporting incidents.
OCSEA mostly occurs on social media. 10% of the surveyed children were offered money or gifts for sexual images or videos of themselves in the past year.
9% of children surveyed reported having sexual images of themselves shared with others without their consent.
Many children did not report any incident of OCSEA to anyone. They expressed not knowing who to report to or where to seek help.
Child advocate professionals said victim-blaming by the police sometimes deterred children from reporting. The common reason for not reporting OCSEA was “not thinking anything would change”.
Click here to learn more about the Disrupting Harm project.
Other members of the panel included Hon. Patricia Kaliati (Minister of Gender and Social Welfare of Malawi), Hon. Dr. Linah Jebii Kilimo (Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Public Service & Gender of Kenya), Afrooz Kaviani Johnson (Chief, child protection specialist, UNICEF HQ), Mr. Serge Valery Zongo (Program Officer at ITU) and Fargani Tambeayuk (Head of Connectivity Policy, Africa at Facebook/Meta).