THE Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCHAM) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on behalf of the SaferKidsPH Consortium to help address online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) in the Philippines.
SaferKidsPH is the Australian government’s initiative implemented in partnership with Save the Children Philippines, The Asia Foundation, and Unicef Philippines.
OSAEC is a borderless and complex crime that requires a coordinated and multisectoral response from all governments and stakeholders, including the private sector. Under the SaferKidsPH partnership, ANZCHAM commits to support advocacies, volunteerism and fund-raising activities to keep Filipino children safe online.
The vulnerabilities of Filipino children and their families have increased because of the pandemic. According to reports, children and the youth are more at risk of OSAEC during this quarantine period as they spend more time online. Likewise, the economic strain on families can make them and their children more vulnerable to engaging in or falling victim to OSAEC. The Philippines has also seen an increase of about 260 percent in reports of online child abuse materials from March to May 2020.
According to the Philippine Kids Online Survey supported by the Australian government and conducted by Unicef in 2016, nearly half of child respondents said the Internet is not safe for them. Two in 10 children are vulnerable to OSAEC, and that boys are just as unsafe as girls. In 2018, at least 600,000 child abuse materials of Filipino children—including those of infants—were shared and sold online.
In the Philippines, Unicef is supporting a targeted program to strengthen the capacity of government systems, parents, caregivers and community members to protect children from all forms of online sexual abuse and exploitation.
“Children have the right to be protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation,” Unicef Philippines Country Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said. “Addressing online sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a top priority of Unicef’s Program of Cooperation with the Philippine government for 2019 to 2023. Together with our partners, we are committed to improving child protection systems to address and prevent OSAEC.”
“OSAEC is everyone’s responsibility to fight against. [Our] business community is committed to bringing the conversation to our members’ respective organizations, and eventually in their employees’ own homes,” ANZCHAM President Daniel Alexander averred. “With more than 350 ANZCHAM member-companies, we will continue to educate our members on [ways] we can create a safer online environment for every child.”
“The work of SaferKidsPH isn’t limited to our governments and civil society partners. To succeed, we must also involve communities, families, media, other development partners and…the business community,” Embassy of Australia’s Chargé d’Affaires Richard Sisson stated. “This could be through raising the awareness of your employees on this issue, promoting child-sensitive business practices, [as well as] supporting safe spaces and practices in schools and communities.”