Google Funded Online Safety Campaign Kicks Off

ChildFund Country Director Mrs Alice Anukur
ChildFund Country Director Mrs Alice Anukur. [PHOTO/ COURTESY]

ChildFund Kenya has kicked off a campaign to enhance the safety of children and young people online. The project, funded by Google through the Africa Online Safety Fund to the tune of $100,000 (about Ksh11 million), seeks to develop child-safe content that stimulates learning while reducing internet-related crimes targeted at children and young people.

In Kenya, sexual exploitation and abuse of children have worsened with the rapid expansion of information and communication technologies and the internet. ChildFund’s Tuchanuke (meaning “Let’s Wise Up”) online child protection project will prevent, address and respond to the online sexual exploitation and abuse of children in several urban sub-counties in Kenya.

Speaking during the launch Alice Anukur ChildFund Kenya Country Director emphasized the role of partnership and collaboration in the fight against online abuse. “We are committed to tackling this enormous issue of online sexual exploitation of children going forward through joint efforts of governments, civil society, the media and the private sector.”

The target areas for this project are Starehe, Kasarani, Kiambu Central and Kikuyu sub-counties where 800 youth aged 15-24, 3,000 parents/caregivers aged 25-60 and 30 government officials at the sub-county level will be involved.

ChildFund will carry out research to reduce sex trafficking of children and youth through strengthening system capacity in online child protection, which is a growing issue in urban areas in Kenya. This is expected to create an environment for children aged 5-14, youth 15-24 and their caregivers to enjoy greater safe access to online content for education, social networking and e-commerce.

Unsupervised teenagers comprise 25% of Kenya’s total internet users, and 42% of Kenyan children and young adults between age 12-17 access the internet at least twice a week, according to UNICEF. Access to basic mobile phones, with an internet connection, is high among Kenyan children and young people across both urban/rural and rich/poor environments.

Sexual exploitation and abuse of children in Kenya have worsened in part due to the expansion of information and communication technologies and the internet. Internet spread in Kenya through mobile broadband, low-cost smartphones, and increased fiber optic cable connections have enabled greater online access throughout the country for youth/children.

Under this one-year project, ChildFund’s ecosystem approach will make it easier to identify which children and youth are most at risk or how they are being targeted by online predators. Whereas traditional offline child protection approaches may be oblivious to the growing child and youth populations online and the risks associated with exposure to illegal content, the project’s intervention will reinforce the involvement of main players in policy development on online sexual exploitation of children.

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