UNICEF South Africa it has teamed up with mobile‐based social networking platform MXit, used by millions under the age of 18, to speak directly to children and young people about the critical issue of child exploitation.
“UNICEF is excited to be partnering with MXit and using innovative new media technologies to empower children and young people to protect themselves,” says Aida Girma, UNICEF representative.
Information about child trafficking, child labour and other forms of child exploitation and tips on keeping safe ‐ with useful telephone numbers ‐ will be conveyed through a Red Card contact. MXit users will be able to add these numbers to their contact list for easy access to vital safety information should they be in need of urgent help.
“A large proportion of MXit users are between 15 and 25, which makes it the perfect partner for this important initiative. Through the Red Card contact, children and young people will be able to access information that is key to their safety, quickly and free of charge,” Girma says.
The Red Card contact launch coincides with Child Protection Week 2010, which takes place from 24 May to 1 June. MXit users – who currently number about 20-million – will also be able to download UNICEF and Red Card skinz and wallpapers to their phones to show their support for child protection. The contact will be promoted to users through splash advertisements and Tradepost broadcast messages.
“The safety of young people and responsible use of social media is very important to us. As always, we advise parents to talk to their children and to discuss the benefits and potential risks of using the internet, especially in the mobile space. In this regard, we encourage all our users to add the Red Card as a contact,” says Herman Heunis, CEO and founder of MXit.
The Red Card seeks to help children and young people stay safe – whether they are walking home from school, going out to watch soccer games or surfing chat rooms.
Each year, tens of thousands of children in South Africa and around the world are exploited through child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, child trafficking and child pornography.
Due to concerns about increased child exploitation during the World Cup, UNICEF is working in partnership with the government of South Africa, civil society and the private sector to enhance and strengthen child protection systems in the country.
These efforts include a national advocacy campaign under the banner of ‘Give The Red Card to Child Abuse and Exploitation’ which aims to increase understanding of the potential risks of child exploitation and abuse. The red card – a familiar football warning – was first adapted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a symbol against child labour. UNICEF and its partners have adopted the card as a symbol of the national advocacy campaign, elements of which will be visible through the MXit contact.
In addition to the MXit Red Card information, hundreds of thousands of red card posters, leaflets, tent cards and ‘little red cards’ will be distributed around South Africa from the end of May, targeting children, parents, communities and visitors to the country, helping to reduce the possibility of children being harmed.