Stories of Implementation

Online Violence against Children: Another Side Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mr. Iftikhar Mubarik, Founder and Executive Director of Search for Justice - Pakistan

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has pushed millions of children out of school. For many of them, the only way to access education has been through the internet. Even though it is not accessible to everyone, online classes have become the only way for several children to interact with their peers, teachers, and family. But the online world also poses many dangers for children, particularly if they spend many hours connected without direct adult supervision.

To discuss the dangers affecting children in the online world, we interviewed Mr. Iftikhar Mubarik, from Lahore, Pakistan. A father of two, Mr. Mubarik is the Founder and Executive Director of Search for Justice, an organization working to further child rights and protection in Pakistan through awareness and sensitization, capacity building, children participation, organizational strengthening and policy advocacy.

The vulnerability of children towards violence, particularly sexual abuse, motivated him to work for the protection of children. Before founding Serch for Justice in 2014, Mr. Mubarik worked with renowned national and international Child Rights-focused organizations in Pakistan.

We thank Mr. Mubarik for sharing about his inspiring work in Pakistan, fostering a culture of child protection.

 

  1. How has online violence increased during the last year in Pakistan? What has been the impact on girls and boys?

Due to the COVID-19 situation, schools and other educational institutions are closed and children are bound to stay at home. This is the first time the world is facing such a situation. Children are now spending their time at home and education and recreation both have turned towards virtual platforms. Children are now spending more time on social media platforms both for educational and recreational purposes which is increasing the risk of their exposure to online violence. Although online violence is a real risk for every child it is observed that young girls are more vulnerable to online violence.

Pakistan Girls

  1. What is Search for Justice doing to address the issue, particularly working with schools or non-formal education settings?

Search for Justice is raising awareness among parents, community members as well as children and young people. In the context of COVID-19, Search for Justice arranged an online session with CSOs, people from the education sector and young people on promoting cyber care of children and young people. Search for Justice also arranged an online discussion on protecting children in online spaces which were attended by a large number of young people and representatives from civil society organizations as well as the Chairperson of Child Protection & Welfare Bureau, a representative from UNICEF, and Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Director Arigatou International Geneva. Search for Justice with the support of Arigatou International’s Geneva also arranged a session with young people on “Understanding Protection in online spaces” where was attended by 30 young people.

  1. What would be your recommendations for faith communities, governments, CSOs and education institutions to help prevent online violence and support children and young people?

My recommendation for faith communities, government, CSOs and educational institutions would be first to accept that children are now part of the virtual world too. This acceptance is very much needed to devise strategies and develop action plans to ensure the protection of children and young people in the online world. The educational institutions must train the teachers on understanding practical tools and techniques to guide children to safely enjoy their online space. Governments must incorporate information on online protection in school and higher secondary levels, which would lead towards empowering children, adolescents and young people in a sustainable way. Faith communities must realize the importance to speak on the issues of online care of children as using the internet without guidance could be risky for children too and timely interventions by faith communities can prevent children from such risks.

Sameer Pakistan 2