Fourteen-year-old Tahmina (not her real name) a happy go lucky girl had all the usual dreams of an adolescent girl. But that changed when she met a boy she liked and upon persistent request shared couple of intimate pictures. This was the turning point when she was constantly under pressure to have a more intimate relationship.
Fortunately, she was aware of 1098, the helpline for children and called the helpline during pandemic. Initially she was very unsure and scared, but after few calls she found the much needed assurance and comfort which gave her the courage to open up. So she sought help from the call center counselor. The call center agent reassured her and gave her more examples of support.
Her story is not unique. She reported that she had developed a relationship with a 16 year old boy during the lockdown and at one point of their interaction through popular digital communication app she shared two private photos with him. She never thought she would be at any risk as she trusted him and had an emotional attachment with the boy. However, after she shared the pictures the entire scenario changed. The boy became more demanding and wanted much more intimacy in the relationship. Which made Tahmina uncomfortable, and she refused. This made the boy more adamant, and he started threatening her with dire consequences by making the photos digitally viral. At this point Tahmina remembered the helpline number that she had noticed in one of the online safety banners, a co-branded communication part of Grameenphone Unicef online safety project.
Learning the details the psychosocial counsellor, social worker, and the manager decided to contact the boy. They counselled him, including informing him of the legal and social consequences of his misconduct. Multiple session made him conscious and ashamed which led him to a promise to change his approach.
Since then the helpline has checked with Tahmina few times and learned that the boy is behaving very well and has not bothered her ever since. Tahmina thanked Child helpline 1098 for their support and for helping her to overcome this problem of online abuse. Since then she has been trained on online safety and she has promised to be digitally cautious and smart.
As part of a comprehensive child protection system, the government of Bangladesh has set up child helplines, to strengthen programmes and support children and their families, through a 24- hour toll-free telephone service. The programmes serve to build the capacity and increase the number of call centre agents. Grameenphone, in partnership with UNICEF, has extended its support to strengthen the service, whether it is the training of call centre agents to psychological counsellors or the core operation of the centre.