World Cup South Africa: 12 June 2010 – Podcast Day 2

As capacity crowds fill the FIFA Fan Fests, hoping to watch the game, but unable to afford the tickets, children’s lives are at stake. Nadine Naidoo in Boston crosses to Johannesburg to talk to Stephen Blight, Head of Child Protection Services at UNICEF South Africa.

Listen to Podcast 2: Nadine Naidoo interviews Stephen Blight of UNICEF South Africa

Credits: Producer, Nadine Naidoo | Sound Engineer, Arooj Aftab | Transcriber, Swetha Kolluri

Nadine: Stephen, tell us a little bit about what the atmosphere is like? Are you at the Fan Fest at the moment? Where are you?

Stephen: Yeah, I’m in Johannesburg. The Fan Fest is a big public viewing area that FIFA offers to people who can’t get a ticket for the game. As you can probably hear in the background there are musicians on the stage, there’s a huge screen and people are waiting for the England-USA game which is due to start in about half and hour… The atmosphere in SA has been absolutely amazing; I’ve never seen anything like it. For the opening game yesterday, the whole country shut down, everybody was wearing the yellow Bafana Bafana shirts and honking their horns. It was really a wonderful thing to see.

Nadine: What has been the experience so far in the child-friendly spaces that you have created as UNICEF?

Stephen: We got these spaces in some of the city that’s hosting the World Cup and especially yesterday, there are thirty to forty thousand people coming into each place. With all the excitement a lot of kids were at risk of being separated from their parents, and indeed that was the case. There is about, where I am now yesterday there were 8 children who were separated and were unified with their parents. And in Soweto as well there were a number of kids who had difficulties. We also had cases of adolescents who drank too much of alcohol and got into trouble – we were able to refer them to emergency services. When people arrive at the site with children, right away they are directed to UNICEF site where the kids receive numbered bracelets and their parents to make greenification easier. And then they are provided with basic safety information so they know how to protect themselves with all the drinking that is going on here – we want to make sure the kids are safe.

Nadine: Tell us about training that you have provided for the social workers in all nine provinces.

Stephen: Social workers in this country have never faced such a challenge of the crowds and risks that children face. There is a lot of concern that children might be exploited – whether in child labor activities, for example, serving alcohol in the informal bars in the neighborhood, selling paraphernalia, there’s been reports that adults use children for begging – trying to get some money off tourists, there’s also an awareness of the vulnerability of girls to sexual exploitation. So UNICEF is supporting the teams of social workers who work with the police and health services making sure that when there is a child who is at risk, that that child gets removed from that situation of risk right away and gets referred to appropriate services.

Nadine: When I met with UNICEF, the child protection team in New York, some of the issues we discussed were related to a study I did at Duke University last year, one of the findings that came up was that there is a severe disconnect between the child protection services provided by the non-governmental organizations and the South African police itself. Have you found that there has been a greater level of cooperation with the police and do you feel confident that when the referrals are going to be made to the police that they will actually be acted on and there will be proper investigation, and perhaps prosecution?

Stephen: My experience and particularly my involvement in supporting child protection planning around the World Cup is that all role players work very closely together extremely well. For example if you take the child protection spaces, there are non-governmental agencies working out of this space, there are government social workers working out of the space, we have protocols with the police – everybody is working really closely together on this. From what I see the referrals are actually working.

Nadine: It seems then that the World Cup has managed to unify all stake holders in child protection sector and it is a wonderful start for us.

Stephen: This is it exactly. We were very keen on supporting response to children in need around the World Cup, not just because of the risks around the event itself but, I think the whole South African child protection system needed a bid push to make sure that people are working together and to make sure that the system functions for children in need.

Nadine: For sure. What has been some of the effort on the ground related to child trafficking and online child sexual abuse?

Stephen: We are aware that the risks of child trafficking in SA are huge. Of course child trafficking is something that’s done in secret so it is difficult to come up with figures of number of children who are trafficked because the perpetrators go to any length to hide it. And children are often too afraid or intimidated to come forward. Prosecution of trafficking is also quite difficult. There is no comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in place. So people who are suspected of trafficking they might be prosecuted on lesser offenses like running a brothel. So it’s very difficult to identify and prosecute child trafficking. But one thing that we are keenly aware of is that the risks are very high. Because SA cities enormously wealthy and it’s a huge pull to people from rural areas and from neighboring countries. There is an immense disparity within SA and they are surrounded by countries where there are large pockets of poverty, high impact of HIV. So in such an environment where there are so many vulnerable children and such opportunities for traffickers to make money, you have to be very careful in putting measures in place to address trafficking.

Nadine: Let’s speak a little about the online safety issues that children face. Africa has been one of the largest adopters of technology in the past decade and as an emerging economy many African countries are ahead of the race to adopt mobile technology, for example. Now with this World Cup beamed out of SA to every nation in the world, there is also (especially from the study that I did) there is a huge risk for images of child sexual abuse being produced within SA to also be beamed out of the country. Have there been any steps taken or any interventions that you are aware of to try to monitor the child sexual abuse images that might be created – so we are talking about child pornography. What are the steps that you are aware of that people can follow at present to either report or to protect themselves?

Stephen: Children in SA, perhaps more than anywhere else in Africa are very heavy users of new technology and in particular social networking platforms. In SA it’s actually the mobile phone which is used as social networking platform. UNICEF has a wonderful partnership with one of these forums which is called MXit which is huge in not only SA but through out Africa. It’s got about 20 million users. And we’ve got a UNICEF site which we call Red Card to child exploitation which contains safety tips for children both using these social networking forums and as well general safety tips to prevent being exploited or abused in general. I think these risks are being taken very seriously in SA and our partnership with MXit is one of these. There is very strong legislation in SA both with the films and publication board and sexual offenses act which criminalizes grooming of children over the internet or other new technologies. And what’s really helpful us that if you see images of child abuse, there is a spot that you can click and report that abuse to the film and publications board immediately.

Nadine: You referred to the film and publications Act and the sexual offenses Act, VIA as a non-profit launched a major coalition with a few years ago to support this particular legislation. And one of the failures that we found in the Act was the fact the sexual offenses, well at the time, made it very clear that the exposure of children to pornography was a criminal offense and there was no harmony between that law and the FPB Act which did not enable the FPB to regulate pornography on the national broadcast channels.

We’ve spoken about the production of child pornography, now let’s talk about the exposure.  Tonight, it’s Saturday – Day2 of the World Cup. Visitors to South Africa will be able to switch on their televisions and find that there is American produced pornography on ETV. Now this pornography has been broadcast since 2001 and millions of children in our country have been exposed to this non-contact sexual abuse of children.

Stephen: Are you talking about children in SA exposed to pornography?

Nadine: On ETV in SA, correct.

Stephen: Can you give a specific example?

Nadine: On Friday and Saturday night in SA including this evening, pornography is going to be broadcast on ETV and it has been broadcast since 2001. For the last 5 or 6 years, the NGO that I represent – VIA, we have been specifically trying to look at how to prevent this type of harmful content from being broadcast on television.

Stephen: I am embarrassed that I wasn’t aware of that. I know that one of the big providers of television in SA was planning to have a channel that had so called ‘adult content’ but after popular discontent with the decision to have that channel it was actually withdrawn.

Nadine: You are doing a remarkable job in SA and I hope to catch up with you as the games progress on the front line of child protection. I look forward to working with UNICEF to make sure that the airwaves are safe for children to be exposed to and perhaps you can share with us as we go along more success stories of these child friendly spaces being hosted by UNICEF.

To join our digital and human network of Visionaries In Africa visit us on – helping us capture the social impact of the World Cup in Africa and helping score one goal for Africa’s women and children.


One Response to World Cup South Africa: 12 June 2010 – Podcast Day 2

  1. yogen says:

    I was at the game today and saw a child almost rob another child (probably 10 or 11 yrs old). It happened in front of me in the mass crowd as we left the game. The child that got away just disappeared into the crowd before we even figured out what was going on. Initially it just looked like two kids chatting. then I could see the distress on the other child’s face and he called for his father who was a few steps in front of him. The other child just dissapeared from site as I overheard the traumatised child tell his dad that he was trying to take his stuff.

    In this situation it’s very easy for a child to be taken advantage of in numerous ways.
    I’m glad you’re bringing these issues into the spotlight and creating more awareness to aid prevention.

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