The Government of Rwanda has been working with University of Rwanda, 5Rights Foundation, and University of East London, and supported by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, to develop a Child Online Protection (COP) Policy. Approximately 42% of the population of Rwanda are aged 0 – 14 and its internet penetration is rapidly increasing, especially among children with independent access to mobile phones.
As children go online, wherever they are in the world, strategies must be developed to make sure that their time online is creative and contributes to their development as citizens and individuals. Developing a multi-stakeholder approach to child protection is necessary to delivering that.
The Government of Rwanda has picked up the baton by pioneering a COP Policy that seeks to prevent harm, and protect and support children in online settings. Several of Rwanda’s ministers visited Scotland to attend workshops hosted by Police Scotland, who have specific experience around online safety. The workshops highlighted how child protection is not just a policing issue but a societal issue, in which the tech and corporate sectors, policy makers, parents, teachers, and children all play a part.
“The main purpose of the workshops was to share experiences and to showcase both our strengths and areas for improvement around child protection,” John Wyllie, Head of International Development and Innovation Unit at Police Scotland, who developed and oversaw the workshops. “We are doing a good job but we also all recognise that we must strive to do be better. No jurisdiction in the world has all the answers to this.”
Hosted by the Scottish Police College and attended by a variety of Rwandan Ministry representatives and Scottish agencies working across the child protection space, the workshops were an opportunity for all stakeholders to breathe life into the Policy and translate it into practical action and plans. The workshops broke down the various components and multi-agency approaches that are required for a holistic child protection strategy.
“The workshops provided unprecedented access to Police Scotland’s experience in protecting children and transforming the lives of the Scottish people. Tapping into the best aspects of their work to resolve such a complex urgent societal matter and help turn our Child Online Protection Policy into a practical tool was invaluable.” Gordon Kalema, Director General for Digital Transformation, Government of Rwanda.
Focusing not just on policing but also education, health and business sectors’ responsibilities and requirements, the workshops started by looking at prevention and police capability, then moved on to communications data, legislation and interface with industry. Participants visited Livingston Police Station to see operational teams, before a final reflection on practical application in different environments.
“There is nothing more important for us collectively than the protection of vulnerable people and this partnership will significantly help our Rwandan friends and international partners to develop their thinking and practice,” Wyllie, Police Scotland. “For me this is a great example of ‘Global Citizenship’ in practice. Getting it right for every child is of primary importance to all involved. Partners can then develop tools of their own that are relevant and practicable.”
5Rights Foundation pilot innovative projects that can be replicated across different contexts and situations. We are excited to support the development of Rwanda’s COP Policy, and know the Policy will lead the way for other governments to put children at the heart of their digital policy.
From governments to parents, educators to industry and young people themselves, we are all responsible for helping children learn and flourish in creative and safe environments.