YOUth can do more: Lessons from the Ninth Regional Consultation of Child Helplines in Africa

From 18-20 of September, I attended the Ninth Regional Consultation of Child Helplines in Africa. I wanted to share with you what I learned from this experience…

A story by Patuma

 

It was great to be a part of the Ninth Regional Consultation for Child Helplines in Africa hosted by Child Helpline International and Childline Zimbabwe this September. As a young person, it was my first time both going outside of Malawi and flying by plane! It was also my first time speaking in front of people older than my peers. All in all, I think and I hope that I managed to do well!

After the opening speech, I gave updates on the Youth Advisory Council and the Free Our Voices Multimedia Toolkit. During these, we received immediate interest from some child helpline members in putting forward young people to join the #Youth!

The most exciting part for me though was the youth forum, which I facilitated together with youth from Childline Zambia and Childline Zimbabwe. It was the first youth forum to ever be held at a Regional Consultation in Africa and I was very happy to represent the #Youth during such a milestone meeting! The agenda of the youth forum focused on how to build sustainable child helplines with the support of youth participation; and on how young people can enhance the collaboration between child helplines and telecoms. This was a unique opportunity for many young peers to be heard and share their opinions on topics that matter to them! We came up with many suggestions and creative solutions, which we were eager to share with everyone in attendance.

Tanyaradzwa Maramura, a peer from Zimbabwe, and I presented the youth forum’s feedback to the audience. Being able to relay feedback during such important events is just one of the many ways in which young people’s ideas can be recognised and amplified. Being able to include our voices to the conversation, made us feel valued in decision-making processes – something that I personally found very motivating! We simply cannot talk about young people without including their voices! I was happy to see so many of the other participants talking to us, the youth present, and showing how willing they are to work with us in the future too!

We simply cannot talk about young people without including their voices

It was also very nice to see that young people were transversal in the event – they were part of the plenaries, speaking during the opening and closing, supporting logistically and in many other ways too. Our partners from Childline Zimbabwe were also leading by example – most of their staff members attending the event were young people. Such a great way to ensure the sustainability of every child helpline!

We also had the opportunity to listen to a presentation from Facebook which focused on how child helplines play an active role in dealing with online abuse cases. According to Facebook, online social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have large user bases of young people. In addition, one in three Internet users worldwide are children under the age of 18¹. As a result, young people these days are more likely to suffer various kinds of online abuses, including cyber bullying, grooming, hate speech and inappropriate content. Since we cannot deny young people access to online sites, what we can focus on is better online protection. Achieving this can only be successful if we include young people in the effort from the very start. We, the youth are technologically savvy and constantly present online, so we have a lot to add to a dialogue aiming at online protection.

One in three Internet users worldwide are children

Facebook also gave us ideas of how we can better protect ourselves online by checking our privacy and safety settings; changing our visibility; blocking and reporting abusive individuals; and performing security check-ups.

In conclusion I can say that the Regional Consultation and the #Youth representation therein was a great success – I saw myself interacting with fellow youths from different countries in Africa. Aside from the young people, I also spoke with many other partners and stakeholders who were proud of my presentation and encouraged me to keep it up. I felt inspired that I can make a change and that my voice is loud and listened to!

Looking forward to the next conference!