Project Childhood is an Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) initiative to combat the sexual exploitation of children in tourism in the Mekong sub-region. Project Childhood builds on Australia’s long-term support for programs that better protect children and prevent their abuse.
Project Childhood brings together World Vision, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL to address the serious issue of sexual exploitation of children in tourism. The project works in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Lao PDR. It takes a dual prevention and protection approach.
World Vision takes a child safe tourism approach in working with Governments and communities to prevent children from becoming victims of sexual exploitation in travel and tourism. Through the use of education, training, public campaigns, and strengthened child helplines, governments, communities, and tourism industries are better aware of the vulnerabilities of at-risk children to sexual exploitation in travel and tourism and better equipped to build a protective environment.
UNODC, in partnership with INTERPOL, is working with law enforcement agencies to protect children through strengthening law enforcement responses. Through the increased knowledge of law enforcement and stronger regional and international cooperation, governments are better equipped to identify and counter child sexual exploitation.
Prevention Pillar Activities:
In Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam, the Prevention Pillar works under four key areas:
1. Building resilience of vulnerable communities through community-based education and training for children, families and community members with responsibility for child protection.
Following community field research in each of the four countries, The Prevention Pillar has developed specialised curricula for children, parents and carers as well as community duty bearers. Children’s education focuses on empowering them by teaching safe behaviours and what to do if they need help. For parents, carers and duty bearers, facilitated ‘discussion forums’ have been designed to encourage open dialogue about child sexual abuse. These forums allow sharing of information about how to proactively keep children safe from abuse, but also encourage communities to develop and seek other culturally appropriate responses in the best interests of children.
2. Enhancing information, reporting and referral structures by strengthening existing national child helplines with capacity building, data management and referral systems, as well as using web and mobile technology to prevent and respond to vulnerabilities and risks.
In Cambodia the Prevention Pillar has commenced a partnership with Child Helpline Cambodia (CHC). Child helpline Cambodia aims to provide free and confidential advice, information and referral services to children. The Prevention Pillar is supporting Child Helpline Cambodia’s efforts to expand its reach to two of the country’s most popular tourism destinations; Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk.
3. Supporting the general public and private sector response to sexual exploitation in tourism through a child safe tourism campaign for tourists and travellers, as well as training and support for the private sector to adopt child safe business practices.
The Prevention Pillar is partnering with the National Tourism Organisations of all four countries to deliver training and education to the tourism sector on “Keeping Children Safe from Abuse in Travel and Tourism”. Participants from the tourism sector include government officials, tour companies, hotels, transport companies as well as specialist media and journalists.
Recently the Prevention Pillar team presented at the Mekong Tourism Forum in Chiang Rai, Thailand, that brought together key private and public tourism sector stakeholders from across the region. The forum expressed its support to the child safe tourism approach as a solution-based initiative that should be seen as part of the movement towards Responsible Tourism.
4. Assisting local and national governments through technical assistance to strengthen existing child protection mechanisms and collaborative efforts to promote and implement child safe tourism.
In addition to working with the National Tourism Organisations to deliver tourism sector training, as mentioned above, the Prevention Pillar is also working with National Governments to help develop child safe tourism strategies and initiatives. As each National Government develops and strengthens the child protection mechanisms, the Prevention Pillar is working alongside these mechanisms to help integrate specific responses to child at risk of abuse and exploitation in tourism.
For more information on Project Childhood-Prevention Pillar, visit the World Vision Asia Pacific website.