CHILD PROTECTION SHOULD BE A YEAR-ROUND EFFORT
Each year, government and organisations around the country gear up to mark National Child Protection Week with a multitude of campaigns and programmes designed to raise awareness about children’s rights and provide services for their safety. It is a week aimed at mobilising all sectors of South African society to care for and protect children as the most vulnerable – and valuable – members of our society. But with abuse statistics on the rise, child protection should really be a year-round effort. To give you some examples of how scary this situation is:
A 2017 study by the Children’s Institute of the University of Cape Town reported that one in three children will experience sexual or physical abuse before the age of eighteen. More recently, Parliament heard that 99% of children in South Africa have experienced or witnessed violence and 41% of all reported rape cases in the last three years have been of children.
At Afrika Tikkun we believe that child protection plays a crucial role in our “bigger picture”, which concentrates on youth development and ending youth unemployment in underprivileged communities. So, Afrika Tikkun’s year-long Memeza Bazokuzwa (‘Speak out, they will hear you’) campaign focuses on child protection 24/ 7/ 365 – as it should be.
This ongoing effort is intended to strengthen the capacity of children to speak out against abuse and empower families and communities to care for and protect their children. We believe that it is of critical importance that the voices of the most vulnerable are empowered to break the silence around child abuse. Young people need to understand that they can and should hold their guardians accountable for safeguarding their rights but to do so, they need to have faith that adults will listen to them, believe them and pursue justice for them in a way that protects their dignity and best interests. As adults we need to acknowledge that we all have a responsibility to protect children from harm and that we should be encouraging them to speak out.
We take child protection very seriously at Afrika Tikkun and we are investing a great deal to bring about institutional change towards greater protection for children. For one thing, we have developed the Afrika Tikkun Child Protection Policy based on national and global best practice, and every single staff member is currently being trained to apply it. In addition, we submit the details of every one of our employees to SAPS for clearance and with regard the Child Protection Register.
This year’s global NGO sexual abuse scandal has rocked and saddened us, but it has also strengthened our resolve as a non-profit organisation working with children and youth not to be tarred with the same brush. Non-profits often play a crucial role in representing minority views, as well as policy innovation and advocacy. In respect of child protection, for us this means giving our youth a platform to speak, seeking their council and valuing their leadership.
We help mould children and youth that can contribute to the successful building of our nation, and we are very fortunate to have the amazing staff, parents, support and benefactors that we do – all involved in the good work that we are able to achieve daily.
As a society and as a family, let us challenge the culture of tolerance for violence and silence when it is perpetrated against children.