The First Continental Consultation on ending Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) in Africa was held on 6th to 8th March 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This consultation involved representatives from 37 African Union (AU) Member States and was for the purpose of building their awareness on OCSE and mobilizing them to commit to tackling the threat at country level. The Member States developed an ‘Outcome Document’ that outlined recommendations on continental level actions as well as country level actions to tackle OCSE for consideration by the African Union Commission (AUC) and Member States.
As a follow up to the continental consultation, the AUC organized regional ‘Round Table’ meetings to further discuss the regional and country level actions that the AU and Member States can undertake to tackle OCSE. On 10th to 12th September 2019, a round table was conducted in Dakar, Senegal with an overall objective to enhance awareness on OCSE, and to share progress, challenges and future actions in tackling OCSE at continental and country level, with reference to the recommendations developed during the First Continental Consultation in March 2019.
The round table targeted 11 Member States: Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Benin, Cameroon, Burundi and the Central African Republic. The GNRC Network and Programs Coordinator, Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat made a presentation on, “Gaps in Awareness of OCSE in Africa and the Role of Faith Leaders/Communities in Bridging the Gap.”
She emphasized the leadership role that Governments must play in support of faith leaders/communities in order to succeed in protecting children Online, including: leadership and coordination; Point persons/office in government to deal with issues of religious engagement; formal arrangement that requires clear commitments to be made and for partners to understand their specific roles and responsibilities and engage faith leaders through a consultative mechanism; clear mandate of each partner to promote holistic service provision and remove overlap; effective communication mechanism; Government transparency in communicating assumptions, ideas, and goals that are driving their policies; mutual and regular contact to build trust; capacity-building for religious leaders on OCSE including how to identify signs of abuse and support the victim in an age-appropriate, non-threatening way.
Other roles governments could play to support faith leaders in the work are: alignment of child safety practices in places of worship to national child protection policies for instance establishment of children’s ministries in churches and mosques; how to engage the government effectively to be able to advocate and speak on policy issues related to OCSE; good documentation practices; and media literacy.