Girl child protection stakeholders in the Upper West Region have called for action to end the canker of online sexual harassment of young girls to enable them to participate freely and reap the benefits of the digital space.
The stakeholders including the National Youth Authority (NYA), Plan International Ghana, the Departments of Children and Community Development, the Youth Parliament and the Network for Young Women Empowerment among others are worried that sexual harassment of young girls, if not checked, had the potential to deprive them of the benefits presented by the fast-evolving digital space.
The stakeholders made the call at a symposium organised by the NYA in Wa with support from Plan International Ghana to mark the 2020 celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, which was on the theme: “Freedom Online”.
Mr Eric Ayaba, Programme Unit Manager, Upper West Programme Unit Office, addressing participants at the symposium noted with worry that a recent survey sponsored by Plan Ghana revealed threats of sexual harassment of girls online was 85 per cent.
Also, threats of sexual violence was 57 per cent and abusive and insulting language stood at 64 per cent according to the report with Facebook leading with 28 per cent of sexual harassment of young girls followed by WhatsApp 14 per cent, Instagram five per cent and twitter two per cent.
Mr Ayaba noted that a lot of young girls suffered this harassment and there was the need to do something about it, adding that everyone including government, parents and the children themselves and more especially managers of these platforms have a bigger responsibility to take action to end this canker.
He said Plan Ghana would support any viable action meant to bring to an end the issue about harassing young girls on the digital space, disclosing that some girls were being supported to send a global letter to digital service providers especially facebook, instagram and twitter for them to take action to end this sexual violence perpetrated against young girls.
Mr Archibald Donkoh Junior, the Regional Director of the NYA noted that the girl child had faced varied challenges in their development with the latest being online abuse, therefore focusing the International Day of the Girl Child on raising awareness to end girls online abuse was very paramount.
He said when girls faced abuses while using these platforms, the tendency to withdraw was high, adding if this was allowed to happen, girls would be left behind as the world advanced.
Mr Sulemana Mumuni, the Director for Programmes and operations at the Headquarters of NYA, advised young girls to discipline themselves on the usage of the cyberspace by avoiding overexposing themselves online and posting nude pictures.
He said these acts which were sometimes committed by their victims either deliberately or indeliberately would come back to hunt them or their children in the future.
Mr Mubashri Issah, a Cyber Security Expert, said the dangers of online usage include cyberbullying, child pornography, sexual exploitation, cyberstalking, access to inappropriate content, image-based sex abuse, online grooming, and online dating sites were worrying.
On how to stay safe, Mr Issah advised the girls against sharing personal information online as it made it easier for one to be cyberstalked, adding they should also think before clicking or posting and endeavour to un-friend people behaving in ways they were not comfortable with.
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