Child Protection Week draws to a close

2016-06-01 06:00
PHOTO: sourced  Child Protection Week.

PHOTO: sourced Child Protection Week.

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NATIONAL Child Protection Week draws to a close on Friday, 4 June, and is celebrated every year to raise awareness of the rights of children as indicated in the Children’s Act of 2005.

Section 28 of the Bill of Rights states that every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter, health-care and social services, as well as the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation. This year the theme is “let us all protect children to move South Africa forward”.

Maritzburg Fever spoke to a few city organisations that work with children to find out why education about child protection is important and what work they do with these children.

Julie Todd, director of Child Welfare SA said society has become increasingly violent over the years with higher crime statistics and daily reports of gender-based violence. “It is no surprise that violence against children is common. Despite globally having one of the most progressive Constitutions and child protection laws in the world the country continues to have a high incidence of child abuse. So what are we doing wrong?

“It is not only systems, procedures and implementation that fail our children, but society as a whole. For many reasons parents are often absent caregivers and so children are left to parent themselves. Discipline in the home either doesn’t exist or is corporal in nature - hitting a child is never the answer,” she said.

Todd explained that children are being exposed to high levels of violence and abuse on a daily basis either directly or indirectly through the media and children learn what they live so the cycle of abuse remains unbroken. “As society has changed parenting styles need to change and if we want the next generation of children to grow up in a less violent society we need to break the current cycle and better protect the children of today who are the adults and parents of tomorrow.

“As Nelson Mandela once said: ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” And perhaps it is time South Africa re-examined it’s soul,” said Todd.

Irene Dugmore, MIDI project manager, has long emphasised the importance of keeping children safe. The organisation recently released a study done on a “child friendly city” in Pietermaritzburg. The study showed that children in the city feel vulnerable and unprotected. “Children are concerned about the high levels of drug and alcohol abuse, they are bullied and subjected to peer pressure, they have to walk long distances to and from school, along unsafe roads, sometimes through forests and over bridges surrounded by overgrown bush, they fear the suspicious cars moving around the community with the intent of abducting children. They have few safe places to play, they face the dangers associated with social media, and many girl pupils are pregnant. Please keep children on the front page every day not only during Child Protection Week,” she said.

Another organisation working with children in the city since the early nineties is Project Gateway. The church-based organisation has run various programmes over the past 24 years, which include the protection of children. “We view this as a very important aspect of life. Our values and principles are Biblically based and therefore we respect and value all life, including children. We currently have over 550 children at the Gateway Christian School. We also support over 500 children in various crèches around the city,” said Di Milford, director at Project Gateway.

At the heart of LifeLine’s work is child protection.

“If we fail as a country to protect our children we are running a risk of having communities who are not emotionally well. If children are not protected from all forms of abuse, including neglect and maltreatment, the country will have dysfunctional communities.

“The impact is great, it leaves a permanent scar and will cost the country more money to provide psychological support services to the victims than protecting children

“LifeLine believes that if we protect children from all forms of abuse we will have healthy families and communities in future. We see child protection as a long- term investment we all should be part of in order to move South Africa forward.

“Let’s protect our children today in order to have emotional well and self-empowered communities tomorrow. We encourage all South African citizens to put children first in everything they do,” said Sinikiwe Biyela, LifeLine director.

A message from Msunduzi Municipal Mayor, Chris Ndlela:

“Child protection is one of the cornerstones of children’s rights as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child. Children need to be protected from all forms of abuse, namely, neglect, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, child labour, early and forced marriages, Ukuthwala, protection from various types of accidents and violation, protection from poverty and protection from alcohol and drug abuse.

“Communities are also made aware of children’s rights during Child Protection Week as most people misunderstand children’s rights. Child protection is a responsibility of every adult in the community,” he said.

In light of Child Protection Week, ER24 offers the following tips on what a parent can do to protect their children.

• Get to know your children. A close relationship or bond with them will help you determine if anything is wrong.

• Educate your children about the dangers they face like drug use, alcohol abuse, sex and peer pressure.

• Teach children not to go anywhere alone, never to go to secluded areas or anywhere with a stranger. Even if approached by someone they know, they should get your permission first before going anywhere with that person.

• A home is a place where a child should feel safe and loved. Ensure a healthy family environment.

• Never leave children unattended or in an unsafe environment. If your children are left in the care of someone else ensure the person can be trusted.

• Ensure your children know who to contact in case of an emergency.

• Teach your children about responsibility.

• Pay attention to them, listen to them, spend time with them and let them know that you care. Be involved in your child’s life.

• Pay attention to changes in personality or attitude. This could be a signal that something is wrong.

• Teach children about the use of social media, the internet and cellphones. They should be made aware of the dangers.

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