Zain Group Publishes Thought Leadership Report: “Leveraging Technology To Protect The Rights Of Children”

Zain Group, the leading mobile telecom innovator in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, announces the publication of its annual thought leadership report, this year entitled,Leveraging Technology to Protect the Rights of Children’.  

The report launched during the 2017 Mobile World Congress Barcelona, outlines the importance of utilizing technology to ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect children from all forms of abuse. Millions of children around the world today suffer from various forms of child abuse and Zain Group has long-since been a firm proponent of protecting the rights of children in the countries in which it operates and across the region.

The Digital Age and the rapid advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have brought forward rapid development and opportunities for children –for example, ready access to information and the ability to seek support when in need, including through child helplines. However, ICT can also create considerable risks that have the potential to enable the spread of certain forms of child abuse including several aspects of abusive behavior. The emergence of cyber-bullying, inappropriate online content and predatory behavior towards children are directly linked to the global spread of ICT.

Some startling facts included in the report highlight the vulnerability of displaced children in areas of conflict their risk being exposed to physical danger is immense, ranging from the threat of attack, sexual abuse, kidnapping, neglect or recruitment into armed militias. It is estimated that there are 13.7 million displaced children around the world, and 7.5 million of them are Syrian children who are in dire need of assistance. As conflict rises in Iraq, the need of assistance rises too; as one out of every three Iraqi children (4.7 million) require humanitarian assistance. These staggering facts show that children, especially those living in warzones, need to be protected.

These situations are more prevalent in conflict situations, where there is often a breakdown in the rule of law as well as other strenuous situations such as displacement. Scenarios such as these can be found in a number of countries across the Middle East and Africa, and Zain feels a pressing need to raise awareness to this tragic state of affairs and contribute to its rectification.

Given this context, Zain’s 2017 Thought Leadership Report examines the role and potential for technology to address child abuse by promoting opportunities and mitigating risks. Given that ICT is a key enabler of socio-economic development on a universal level, it is important that stakeholders work together to ensure that the dangers associated with it are addressed without eliminating the inherent benefits that it offers humanity.

Commenting on the publication of the company’s latest report, Zain Group CEO,Scott Gegenheimer commented, “The mobile industry with its fast paced evolution has tremendous potential to raise awareness and provide radically beneficial solutions that could address the plight of the most vulnerable segments of society, particularly children. Zain is committed to the safety and well-being of the communities it serves and we hope that through this report our efforts to raise awareness and offer solutions are also replicated and championed by our industry peers and beyond.”

On her part, Jennifer Suleiman, Zain Group’s Head of Corporate Sustainability said, We operate on the doorstep of a series of ongoing conflicts, primarily in Syria and Iraq, which have resulted in arguably the worst humanitarian crises of modern times and the most widespread case of human displacement since WWII. The circumstances place the children of the region in far greater risk of facing abuse, and we feel compelled to raise attention to these circumstances, while also actively addressing them in our own right.”

Natasha Jackson, Head of Public Policy and Consumer Affairs, GSMA said, “We would like to congratulate Zain on the work they are doing to harness the power of mobile to help protect vulnerable children, whilst actively combatting the misuse of their services by those who seek to sexually exploit children.” 

Magdalena Aguilar,Head of Programme Development at Child Helpline International said, “We at Child Helpline International are happy that Zain Group sees child helplines as an essential tool for child online protection. We join this call for action and urge everybody to support us in our fight to protect children when they are at their most vulnerable.”

Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, President & CEO, World Childhood Foundation USA said, “As a partner in child protection, World Childhood Foundation USA is proud of the important work and leadership of Zain to achieve one of the critical SDGs’ targets, 16.2: ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children by 2030.”

Across the globe, socially responsible organizations continue to take measures to leverage their core business to help tackle the burning issue of child abuse. “Leveraging Technology to Protect the Rights of Children” highlights how ICT also enables the development of tools and mechanisms to tackle child abuse more effectively and universally than ever before.

Through ICT, new opportunities have emerged that allow people to address, prevent and spread awareness about this issue in an unprecedented way. By leveraging technology, organizations can ensure that mechanisms to address child abuse are more effective, inclusive and accessible to children everywhere. Technology also supports improved data collection about the issue, thus leading to better response capabilities and more targeted policy reforms.

This latest awareness-raising publication reaffirms Zain’s long standing commitment to addressing this critical social issue as the company is already actively involved in a GSMA initiative to combat child sexual abuse content. In 2011, Zain joined the GSMA Mobile Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Content campaign that aimed to ensure that individuals or organizations wishing to use, or profit from child sexual abuse content using the mobile environment, are prevented from doing so.

Further, in 2014, Zain was a key and active supporter of the GSMA’s partnership with Child Helpline International to protect young people and safeguard their right to be heard. Additionally, in 2015, Zain launched a multi-faceted media campaign to raise awareness about the ills of child abuse and shed light on this often taboo, yet tragic topic.

Leading institutions, business and community leaders supporting the cause contributing to the report include: Natasha Jackson, Head of Public Policy and Consumer Affairs, GSMA; Magdalena Aguilar, Head of Programme Development Child Helpline International; Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, President & CEO World Childhood Foundation USA; Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Ericsson.

Highlighting this issue in this region is a brave move by Zain given the sensitivity of the subject matter, and the company remains undeterred in its determination to shed light on the plight of abused children, and to help in the eradication of this destructive occurrence. Ends