The Ministry of Women and Child Affairs (MWCA) of Sri Lanka requested SAIEVAC (South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children) – the Inter-Governmental Apex Body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and a member of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children to assist the Ministry to develop a five-year National Action Plan. PEaCE was invited as the partner and requested to organize and host events to facilitate the development of the plan.
The MWCA was led by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services and National Child Protection Authority. They, along with the National Action and Coordinating Groups (NACG), the SAIVAC Regional Secretariat and PEaCE, were leading the process.
The MWCA requested that the program be organized at a larger scale in order to hear the voices of the people of different districts, including children.
The 2-day National Consultation on Child Sexual Abuse, Exploitation and Online Safety (CSAE & OS) took place at Mirage Hotel, Colombo – 06, on the 21st and 22nd of January 2019. It was attended by over 70 key representatives from various government institutions, the private sector, Non-Governmental organisations and children from different districts. The event was fully sponsored by Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere – PEaCE (ECPAT Sri Lanka) in collaboration with the UK Government as part of the End Sexual Exploitation of Children Online (ESECO) Project
The Consultation was inaugurated by Mrs Darshana Senanayake, (Chief Guest), the Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, Dr Rinchen Chopel, the Director General of SAIEVAC, Mrs Sujatha Kulathunga, the Deputy Chairperson of NCPA, – Mrs Champa Gunasekera, NACG, Chair and the Executive Director of PEaCE – Mr Mohammed Mahuruf. Other senior Officers from the National Child Protection Authority, the Department of Probation and Child Care Services and the Law Enforcement Sector of Sri Lanka were also present. As event organizers, PEaCE played a key role in the Consultation. A number of Information Technology Experts, Civil Society Stakeholders, Internet Service Providers and Child and Youth leaders also participated in the Consultation.
Some of the key topics that were presented included the Progress Overview of the Regional and National Efforts on CSAE & OS, the Sri Lankan Situation on CSAE & OS, a sharing of experiences by PEaCE, and a description of Pathfinder Initiatives. As a major part of the Consultation, an open forum was held to discuss key challenges as identified by the participants.
An important highlight of the event was the presence of children and youth who were able to directly put forward the current issues that they faced and actions required as seen through the eyes of a child. They pointed out the lack of proper understanding and knowledge regarding modern technological devices used for communication and the internet that was prevalent among both children and parents. The children and youth also stated that there was a great need for properly regulated sex education in modern Sri Lankan culture and society.
The knowledge exchange that took place for these two days of the Consultation resulted in the identification of a plethora of social, environmental and individual issues related to Child Sexual Abuse, Exploitation and Online Safety. The participants were divided into five groups and drafted the plan of action based on the discussions. A number of solutions and suggestions were found through brainstorming and knowledge sharing of the multiple stakeholders present.
The draft developed through the Consultation focused on adopting better legislative structures and policies towards CSAE & OS, providing better assistance to victims of CSAE, preventing Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation through increased public awareness, preventive measures of the corporate sector against CSAE, proper capacity building and skills development.
The National Consultation on CSAE and OS turned out to be a huge success with many follow-up measures planned. The 2nd stage of development – the expert review meeting to finalise and validate the National Plan is scheduled for mid March. The final stage – the launch of the National Plan – will be in the beginning of April 2019 with a larger audience.
Watch this space for more updates.