Child Safe Responsible Travel Campaign

Multi-Stakeholder Engagement to Promote Child Protection Messages: Child Safe Network, Cambodia

Child Safe campaign by Friends International effectively engages travelers, locals and industry stakeholders to give exposure to the issue of child protection in tourism and to help prevent exploitation.
Amy McLoughlin
Amy McLoughlin

Co-Founder at Ayana Journeys

ChildSafe Movement
Photo (c) ChildSafe Movement


Case Study Title:
Child Safe Responsible Travel Campaign


ChildSafe Movement, Friends International

Sustainable Communications for Multi-Stakeholder Engagement

ChildSafe Network LogoThe Child Safe campaign delivered by Friends International works with many different stakeholder groups in Cambodia to give exposure to the issue of child safety in tourism and to help prevent exploitation of children through tourism. One of the reasons why Child Safe has been so successful in spreading its message is the campaign team's commitment to multi-stakeholder engagement.

For one thing, they are not afraid to talk about an issue that many people shy away from in the tourism industry. They also effectively use different approaches to crafting and delivering messages for different audiences.

For example:

  • Educating visitors in-destination: Child Safe has signs and posters strategically positioned in key locations to grab the attention of the audience they aim to reach, e.g. tourists in bars, accommodations and transport hubs, as well as messages placed in in-flight magazines.
  • Promoting awareness among travelers: The "7 Tips" materials ("7 Better Ways to Help Protect Children around the World") are great for travelers as they are to the point and offer actionable advice specific to situations that many travelers may encounter during their trips.
  • Engaging local residents: The messages are also there for local residents in a visible and impactful way. ChildSafe is also a great example of engaging young people through their social services and effective online communications, enabling them to identify children in danger of sexual exploitation and to know how to take action.
  • Offering a good practice standard for the industry: The "Global Good Practice Guidelines" are designed to enable tourism industry stakeholders to understand the importance and relevance of child safety issues in tourism, and to actively contribute to child protection efforts.

Child Safe Campaign Messages in Action

Tuk Tuk Drivers as Campaign Ambassadors

Huge numbers of tuk tuk drivers are trained for free through Child Safe campaign, and once fully engaged, they receive a shirt that communicates the messages and become ambassadors for Child Safe. These tuk tuk drivers understand why they should not take visitors to certain sites (e.g. schools and orphanages) and are more alert to look out for things regarding child safety whilst at work. They can also share information with tourists, helping further spread the Child Safe messages.

Cambodia TukTuk Driver ChildSafe Network
Photo © Lucas Veuve, 2013 / Child Safe Network

Alerting Tourists of the Baby Milk Scam

A big problem in Siem Reap is a network of young people who are working in a milk scam ring, where vulnerable children are sent to work and encourage tourists to purchase powdered baby milk (many tourists become convinced that supplying this instead of giving money directly is a less harmful way to give to a begging child). Some supermarkets are in on the scam. Tourists are led to participating ones, the child then returns the milk powder after the tourist has left, and the supermarket takes a cut and the child gets some too.

Educating Travelers about Baby Milk Scam ChildSafe
Educating travelers about the baby milk scam (Child Safe Network)


Children Are Not Tourist Attractions

The burgeoning orphanage tourism industry and the damage it causes in Cambodia has been well publicized*, but many visitors still want to visit orphanages or schools. This particular campaign under Child Safe, "Children Are Not Tourist Attractions", has a great visual to raise awareness that tourists should not support businesses that allow you to freely interact with children.

Children are not tourist attractions
The "Children Are Not Tourist Attractions" campaign by the ChildSafe Network

*Here are some examples of reports and news article regarding "orphanage tourism" in Cambodia:

  • The Guardian - "Cambodia: child protection workers call for end to 'orphanage tourism'": This article includes the following quote from Luke Gracie, alternative care manager at Friends International in Phnom Penh: "People mean well, 99% of people feel they are doing something right and helping the children, providing them some fun… but our argument is that we suggest people think twice about it and think of the longer-term harm that they could be causing."
  • UNICEF South Asia - "Volunteering in orphanages": This post alerts that volunteering in orphanages often leads to child exploitation; "Children belong with their families, not institutions. Torn away from their parents and caregivers, young children quickly develop bonds with volunteers and may feel abandoned when they leave. Without stringent background checks of volunteers and orphanage staff, children growing up in orphanages are also targets for sexual exploitation and abuse."
  • Al Jazeera English - "Cambodia's Orphanage Business": This report by Al Jazeera describes how well-intentioned volunteers have helped to create a surge in the number of orphanages, and how 'voluntourism' is fueling the exploitation of Cambodian children as some businesses seek to benefit from the 'orphanage business'.