Tokelo Khausela/Seithati Mphatsoane
CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) from across Africa recently attended a forum in Maseru aimed at coming up with strategies to promote and safeguard the rights of children on the internet.
The meeting also sought ways of ensuring that children use the digital space without fear of cyberbullying and exposure to sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Addressing the 21st Ordinary Session of the CSO Forum on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) in Maseru, chairperson, Damon Wamara, said there was need to ensure that children were not exposed to harmful material on the internet.
“Exposure to the internet raises children’s vulnerability to vices such as online sexual exploitation and human trafficking. It is therefore important that we ensure that this space is safe for them to enjoy their right to access to information,” Mr Wamara said.
He said it was the responsibility of the more than 400 organisations fighting for children’s rights in Africa to ensure that young people have access to information that is not harmful to their lives.
Save the Children, African Population and Health Research Centre, Network of Early Child Development of Lesotho, Plan International and Swaziland Campaign for Education for All are some of the organisations that attended the forum.
The ACRWC was adopted in 1990 and came into force in 1999. The instrument, amongst other things, provides for the active involvement of civil society actors in supporting the role of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC).
Shoeshoe Mofokeng, from Network of Early Child Development of Lesotho (NECDL), said that children were not only victimised by strangers on social media, but even by their guardians through the pictures and videos they post online without their consent.
“Our organisations work independently but it is important that we meet and exchange views on how we can enhance our learning about the digital environment and how we can protect children against harmful information,” Ms Mofokeng said.