UN agency issues red card to child exploitation ahead of soccer World Cup

27 May 2010 – Ahead of the kick-off of next month’s soccer World Cup in South Africa, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is hoping to empower millions of young people to protect themselves from exploitation.

The agency is partnering with MXit, a mobile-based social networking platform used by millions under the age of 18, mostly in South Africa.

Tens of thousands of children are exploited worldwide every year, and UNICEF and its partners are ramping up efforts to protect children given concerns over increased abuse during the month-long World Cup.

A Red Card contact will convey important information about child trafficking, child labour, child pornography and other forms of exploitation, as well as on how to keep children safe. MXit users, numbering some 20 million, will also be able to add useful telephone numbers to their contact list in case they are in need of urgent help.

Through the new initiative, “children and young people will be able to access information that is key to their safety, quickly and free of charge,” said UNICEF Representative Aida Girma.

The launch of the Red Card contact coincides with Child Protection Week 2010, and MXit users will also be able to download for their cell phones UNICEF and Red Card covers and wallpapers for their screens to show their support for child protection.

The concept of the Red Card – a familiar soccer warning – was first used by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) as a symbol against child labour.

It has now been adopted by UNICEF and its partners as the symbol of its national advocacy campaign to curb child exploitation in South Africa.

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