11 years ago Friends-International set up a project that aimed to protect children from all risks and forms of abuse. They gave it a very simple and direct name – ChildSafe.
The first steps were to make it clear that ChildSafe was no conventional ‘top down’ NGO-type approach to child protection. No, this was an initiative in which individuals took responsibility for the protection of their own and others children – the organization provided the tools and structures to enable them to do that.
At first it trained key people in the many communities across South East Asia where Friends programs were working – these would be the eyes and ears of child protection, the taxi drivers, street sellers, merchants… people who knew their communities, knew the families and their children, and knew when things were happening that put children at risk. Importantly, through their training, they would know exactly what to do when they encountered or suspected risks or abuses against children.
It then reached out to partners, forming what would become the Childsafe Alliance – other NGOs implementing ChildSafe in their own areas.
As ChildSafe grew, then it became clear it had to expand even further. It had to become a Movement, and address other elements, including those who were perhaps inadvertently exposing children to risks through primarily well-meaning yet ill-informed actions. These included the millions of tourists traveling to developing nations, including Cambodia. So, the 7 Tips for Travelers, with their advice and hotline numbers, and the highly successful campaigns on begging children and orphanages were created by the ChildSafe teams, reaching out to those millions on the back of the huge international growth in social media. Certified trainings were developed for businesses to ensure that all their actions promoted ChildSafe practices and supported ChildSafe communities
Now, the world is catching up with the ChildSafe Movement, with more and more people and businesses poised to Join the Movement in protecting children across the globe.
In the last three years Childsafe has won several major awards in recognition of its work. The AGFUND Award, finalist and runner-up in the UNWTO Awards, the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Innovation Award, and just last week in London at the World Tourism Market, the Gold Award for best responsible tourism campaign. Following that, the ChildSafe representative attending the awards ceremony was inundated by requests from travel industry reps for information on the certified trainings ChildSafe provides to the tourism sector.
If you are already part of the Movement, these awards are your awards too – ChildSafe is about active participation, and whether you are a tourist following the 7 Tips, a volunteer using ChildSafe guidelines to inform your volunteering or a business actively and passionately involved in protecting children in your community, you are playing an important role in ensuring children are able to grow and thrive in safe and protective environments.
There is still much to for us all to do, but awareness is rising – so, let’s continue to spread the word, share the messages and encourage all to ‘Join the Movement’!
You can find facts, figures and more on the ChildSafe Movement by visiting their website at thinkchildsafe.org