By Ramatoulie Jawo.
Paradise Foundation Initiative, Child Protection Alliance (CPA), and Civil Society Organizations in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Gender Children & Social Welfare held a dialogue forum to address growing concerns faced by young people in the digital space as part of International Women’s day celebrations.
The dialogue forum brought together different stakeholders to discuss and chart a way forward on the issues faced by young people in the digital space such as Sexual Exploitation & Drugs Abuse Amongst Young People in the Context of Civil Works and Digital Space under the theme “Empowering women and girls to make a positive choice”
Speaking at the forum Tabou Njie-Sarr a women’s rights advocate from Action Aid International in the Gambia reflects on the risk of sexual exploitation and drug abuse amongst young people in the context of civil works and digital space.
Tabou Njie Sarr said Increasing internet penetration in Africa over the past decade has unlocked numerous opportunities, helping to boost economies and increasing access to learning and educational opportunities.
“But this digital takeover isn’t without its pitfalls. Just as the adoption of digital Banking leads to more cybercrime attacks, increase internet access leaves our children more vulnerable to online harm, including sexual exploitation and abuse,” She said.
Madam Njie -Sarr called on the government and policymakers to build and enforce structures to protect everyone, especially children from abuse of all sorts by setting mechanisms for people to report cases of online abuse and making them more accessible.
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Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Ms. Naomi Williams highlighted the theme in connection to the National Development Plan of the government.
“The day is commemorated to highlight the economic and social protection, promotion of gender equity, equality, and the empowerment of women and girls in all spheres of governance which is one of the strategic priority areas in the NDP of the government of the Gambia. In 2019, the government of the Gambia established an independent Ministry with a mandate to contribute to the development of the Gambia, with the principle of equity, inclusiveness, equality, protecting the rights of women and children, and the integration and protection of vulnerable and excluded groups. Including people living with disability, with growing concerns on child protection issues,” she said.
Ms. Naomi stated that as part of their efforts towards child protection, the Ministry has a hotline for reporting cases of violence against children and survivors.
She said the hotline center is focused on engagement or management in line with the National Child Protection Strategy 2016 to 2021.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, Mr. Ebrima Sisawo, said at their level, they are very conscious of the importance of their role in not only responding intellectually but to the needs of the community through the prevention of relevant quality education. Additionally, they will also continue to strive to make sure that a safe and enabling environment is created for the learners and the personnel who makes teaching and learning possible.
The President of the voice of the young, Ousai Ceesay, challenged the state to fulfill its responsibility to children and young people.
“If the state fails in its responsibilities, they will live in a carefree society. Children and young people will go astray and The dream of a better Gambia will be lost and they shall regret their actions,” Ceesay said.
International Women’s Day is commemorated in a variety of ways worldwide. It is a public holiday in several countries and is observed socially or locally to celebrate and promote the achievements of women.
The purpose of the day is to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges, and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender.