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World Cup 2010: MXit launches free UNICEF Red Card contact to help keep children safe

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, 26 May 2010 - UNICEF South Africa today announced that it has teamed up with popular mobile-based social networking platform MXit, used by millions under the age of 18, to speak directly to children and young people about the critical issue of child exploitation.

“UNICEF is excited to be partnering with MXit and using innovative new media technologies to empower children and young people to protect themselves,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative.

Information about child trafficking, child labour and other forms of child exploitation and tips on keeping children safe - with useful telephone numbers - will be conveyed through a Red Card contact. MXit users will be able to add these numbers to their contact list for easy access to vital safety information should they be in need of urgent help.

“A large proportion of MXit users are between 15 and 25, which makes it the perfect partner for this important initiative.  Through the Red Card contact, children and young people will be able to access information that is key to their safety, quickly and free of charge,” added Ms. Girma.

The Red Card contact launch coincides with Child Protection Week 2010, which takes place from 24 May to 1 June. MXit users – who currently number about 20 million – will also be able to download UNICEF and Red Card skinz and wallpapers to their phones to show their support for child protection. The contact will be promoted to users through splash advertisements and Tradepost broadcast messages.

“The safety of young people and responsible use of social media is very important to us. As always, we advise parents to talk to their children and to discuss the benefits and potential risks of using the internet, especially in the mobile space. In this regard, we encourage all our users to add the Red Card as a contact,” says Herman Heunis, CEO and founder of MXit.

Let’s Give the Red Card to Child Exploitation
The Red Card seeks to help children and young people stay safe – whether they are walking home from school, going out to watch soccer games or surfing chat rooms. Each year, tens of thousands of children in South Africa and around the world are exploited through child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, child trafficking and child pornography.

Due to concerns about increased child exploitation during the World Cup, UNICEF is working in partnership with the government of South Africa, civil society and the private sector to enhance and strengthen child protection systems in the country. These efforts include a national advocacy campaign under the banner of ‘Give The Red Card to Child Abuse and Exploitation’ which aims to increase understanding of the potential risks of child exploitation and abuse. The red card – a familiar football warning – was first adapted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a symbol against child labour. UNICEF and its partners have adopted the card as a symbol of the national advocacy campaign, elements of which will be visible through the MXit contact.

In addition to the MXit Red Card information, hundreds of thousands of red card posters, leaflets, tent cards and ‘little red cards’ will be distributed around South Africa from the end of May, targeting children, parents, communities and visitors to the country, reducing the possibility of children being harmed.

Next generation advocacy through social networks
MXit is a global mobile instant messenger and social network. It allows users to chat on their mobile phones or computers anywhere in the world.  MXit first introduced mobile instant messaging to South Africa in 2005.  It started as a mobile game developer and evolved into a mobile instant messaging company, allowing its users to send messages at a fraction of the cost of traditional SMS.

UNICEF South Africa also has a dedicated website and Facebook page, which are updated regularly with news and resources. Look us up on www.unicef.org/southafrica or add UNICEF South Africa as a friend to learn more about the Red Card campaign and key programme priorities.

About MXit
MXit is a next generation company that boasts over 20 million users globally.  It attracts more than 25,000 new users per day and constantly evolves to meet the needs of its users. It is set on becoming one of the biggest instant messaging networks in the world and the preferred mobile social network for communicating with young people in Africa, South East Asia, and South America. MXit delights its users by continuously unveiling social networking, entertainment, communication and lifestyle features that benefit and enrich their lives.  This commitment towards innovation is the cornerstone of its success. To download MXit: For PCs, visit www.mxit.com and choose the PC option; for mobiles, open your mobile browser, type in http://m.mxit.com and simply follow the onscreen prompts.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For more information, please contact:
Yvonne Duncan, UNICEF South Africa,
Tel +27 82 561 3979, yduncan@unicef.org

Kate Pawelczyk, UNICEF South Africa,
Tel +27 82 336 5565 , kpawelczyk@unicef.org

Laura Hallam, MXIT,
Tel +27 21 888 7024, Laura.Hallam@mxitlifestyle.com

Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York
Tel + 212 326 7452, kdonovan@unicef.org   




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