Football for Humanity and sports education partner Coaches Across Continents kick-off a series of online training sessions for thirty coaches participating in the community football mobilization program under the #StopOSAEC (Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children) advocacy headed by Football for Humanity (FFH) and Advocacy Partners Asia Inc (APAI). The course promotes a structured curriculum to enhance FFH coaches' knowledge and skills necessary for coaching vulnerable children. These coaches will be offering free fun football sessions to communities where children are at risk of OSAEC, which is a violation under Article 5 of Republic Act No. 7610 (An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, And for Other Purposes)
Coaches Across Continents is an international NGO and the global leader in using purposeful play and education outside the classroom to address the UN SDG's and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. CAC Founder Nick Gates said, "I am delighted to share my support of the fantastic group of leaders from the Philippines, coming together with CAC and Football for Humanity to challenge OSAEC in their communities and around the world. I believe if we can bring fun back to play and sport, then we can heal from our traumas and rebuild communities, families, teams and cultures with children's imagination at the center."
Sport and play have been endorsed by UNICEF in its Sport for Development Programs (S4D) as a proven platform for children's "empowerment, leadership and self-esteem, and which contributes to overall well-being and future prospects". In addition, FFH and its partners recognize children's right to leisure, play, and participation in cultural and artistic activities as enacted in the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As COVID-19 surged and the entire country was practically halted in lockdown, OSAEC incidences also grew exponentially, thus putting more children at risk in a world that has become more digitalized, seemingly overnight. As of May 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had reported an annual increase in OSAEC cases of 264%.
“OSAEC has created hundreds of thousands of traumatised children who suffer in silence. If we educate and empower children through play, we will help prevent, heal and reverse the crippling effects of this monstrous crime,” according to FFH founder and president Chris Thomas.
Football for Humanity and Advocacy Partners Asia formalized their partnership for the project in May, 2021, when APA Executive Director Louie P. Sebastian declared that, "No child should ever experience abuse in any form most especially online sexual abuse which leaves long-term physical, social, mental and emotional trauma. Increasing awareness of the ills and dangers of OSAEC is crucial. Hence, Advocacy Partners Asia, Inc. and PAGEONE, as leading organizations in development communication and social mobilization, are one with FFH in creating a strong movement against OSAEC."
The #StopOSAEC advocacy is funded by the Australian Government through the Direct Aid Program (DAP) of the Australian Embassy in the Philippines and is supported by the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ/IACAT), PLDT/Smart, and other partners and sponsors affiliated under FFH, which runs on a strong child protection platform in all of its initiatives.
Mr Thanh Le, Development Counsellor at the Australian Embassy said, "The FFH project presents a valuable strategy to raise awareness on and counter OSAEC in communities through purposive play. It has a strong potential to empower vulnerable children and their families against OSAEC. This initiative complements Australia's SaferKidsPH program, which aims to strengthen the child protection system in the Philippines with a particular focus on OSAEC."
Social media platforms and online technology are at the center of the OSAEC problem, and constitute the “bridge” where alleged perpetrators and potential victims converge. FFH and APA reached out to PLDT and Smart, the Philippines' leading telecommunications and digital services providers, as they had already launched an aggressive campaign April this year to stamp out OSAEC through its technology solutions and support of organizations dedicated to fighting OSAEC. "PLDT and Smart recognize the critical role that technology plays in combatting OSAEC,” said PLDT First Vice President and Group Head for Corporate Communications Cathy Yap-Yang. “Further to that, we're also pursuing shared value partnerships with like-minded organizations such as the FFH to strengthen our commitment to champion children's rights and create safer spaces for them, both online and offline. With technology and sports as our shared anchors, we aim to bring opportunities for vulnerable children to find hope, safety and support to continue moving forward.”
Law enforcement efforts regarding this online crime are led by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the Philippines, which also created the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in charge of coordinating and monitoring the implementation of Republic Act No. 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. The IACAT is multi-agency, composed of government agencies and non-government sectoral representatives who employ various approaches to combatting OSAEC. Officer in Charge, Executive Director Wendell Bendoval, welcomed the involvement of FFH and its partners in the multi-agency alliance: "Human trafficking is a pervasive crisis throughout the world, especially here in the Philippines where we are considered a trafficking hotspot. Through international cooperation, the anti-trafficking movement continues to adapt to shifting circumstances and new challenges to remain one step ahead of traffickers and protect our children from it. Partnerships are crucial to the movement because it takes not one person but rather a whole government approach to completely end modern-day slavery. FFH's involvement in the advocacy allowed us to be reminded once again of this collective commitment as we take on another year and look forward to the work that lies ahead."
Football for Humanity is a charity registered in the Philippines and the UK. The charity uses the power of play to educate, empower and protect children facing the threat of violence, exploitation and extreme poverty.