Rev. Dr. Lydia Mwaniki represented The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) at the 10th Regional Consultation of Child Helplines in Africa and MENA whose theme was “Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: A call to Action on Preventing and Responding to online CSEA in Africa” in Zanzibar, Tanzania, from 5th -7th November.
This theme is in line with the vision of Africa’s Agenda for children 2040, which aspires that by 2040, “No child is exposed to sexual exploitation and used for child sexual materials” and that, “No child is exposed to any form of violence, including gender-based violence in the public or private sphere.
Digital media is increasingly becoming a source of information in Africa. Although this is to be celebrated in many ways, it also has the potential for exposing children and youth to more risks including Online Child Sexual Abuse (OCSEA). There is still limited legislative, policy and programmatic measures put in place by AU member states to protect children from the risks of Online Child Sexual Abuse (OCSEA). There is also limited awareness among actors, parents, communities and children on the risks of OCSEA hence the need to increase awareness of child helplines in Africa, United Nations, African Union, Civil Society Organizations, Telecoms, Governments and other key stakeholder.
Rev. Dr. Mwaniki, the AACC Director for Gender, Women and Youth was invited to speak about “Churches Efforts Related to The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Out of The Shadows Index Recommendations and Findings". She shared a report of the workshops on Out of the Shadows Index, carried out in Nigeria and Tanzania by AACC in collaboration with WCC and Councils of Churches in those countries. The Out of the Shadows Index measures the extent to which countries are acknowledging the problem of sexual violence against children and how they are implementing measures to address and prevent it. The data revealed by the index calls local level stakeholders such as governments, NGO’s and CSOs to respond.
During the consultation, there was a field trip to a helpline centre in Zanzibar, which is linked to One Stop Centre, a hospital external wing with a counselling room, police room and doctor's room, to enable efficiency and ease in handling GBV and child abuse issues. Helplines need to find more aggressive ways of popularizing themselves and look for ways of reaching out to the community
Online Sexual violence against children is an emerging issue which requires concerted efforts from parents, governments, child helpline organizations, CSOs and FBOs among other Stakeholder. Churches and religious actors need to be more proactive to collaborate with helpline organizations, governments and other stakeholders in order to eradicate child abuse.