Taking over the “Blue Carpet” on World Children’s Day

UNICEF South Africa embraced the spirit of World Children’s Day by hosting “blue themed” events to raise awareness, advocate for children’s rights.

Sudeshan Reddy
UNICEF South Africa/2018/Mojapelo
20 November 2018

Johannesburg -  Every year, on the 20th of November, UNICEF celebrates World Children’s Day, a day for children that, for the past few years, is led by children.

For the 2018 commemoration, UNICEF South Africa embraced the spirit of World Children’s Day by hosting “blue themed” events to raise awareness, advocate for children’s rights and provide children with the opportunity to take over traditionally adult-dominated spaces to discuss issues around physical and cyber bullying and its effects on mental health.

According to YouGov, a global market research and data analytics firm, South Africa has the fourth highest occurrence of bullying in the world with an average of 24% of learners (3.2 million learners) between the ages of 13-18 reporting getting bullied every year (Safer Schools Report 2015).

In order to highlight the worryingly high level of bullying in South Africa, UNICEF South Africa used World Children’s Day to enhance an understanding, from a learner’s perspective, on how children might feel when they get bullied either physically or online and, importantly, who they can approach for help.

UNICEF South Africa/2018/Mojapelo
Learners from ten schools gather to discuss bullying and how to end it, on World Children’s Day.

The event, led by Mary Anne Nobel and Palesa Motaung from the Children’s Radio Foundation, was staged as an informative Facebook Live Chat Show called “The Blue Carpet” which was held at the studios of a media partner of UNICEF South Africa, Ndalo Media. With support from two established corporate partners of UNICEF, namely Ster Kinekor and Facebook, the session brought children between the ages of 13 to 18 from ten different schools together to raise their voices and share their experiences on how to tackle bullying. This was followed by a tour of the Facebook South Africa offices. UNICEF South Africa chose these learners based on the active roles they took to stand up against bullying.

To mark the day, UNICEF South Africa launched a Facebook Bot called the Mask A Raid with an aim to protect children from cyber bullying when using social media in collaboration with Red September, an advertising agency. The goal of the initiative is to make children more aware of sexting and online privacy. The Bot is an interactive experience that introduces users to “Thembi” a 21 year old character that experiences the consequences of personal intimate pictures shared online.

This was followed by a discussion led by 9 year-old author Lelo Kingston Mofokeng. After being bullied, Lelo decided to help other learners who are also being bullied. In his book he encourages victims to “speak to a grown up that you trust” about their experience and urges bullies to reflect on their behavior and think about the emotional pain they are inflicting on victims and their families.

In her remarks, Sandra Bisin Chief of Communications and Partnerships at UNICEF South Africa noted that “we need to educate parents and educators so they can guide children better and they can provide age appropriate recommendations. Indeed, with the help of supportive parents, youth will be able to speak out about their experiences and have the confidence to take proactive action.”

UNICEF South Africa hopes to continue hosting events like the Blue Carpet to raise awareness about bullying through youth voices and encourage other young people to speak out about their experiences.