The Western Cape's first Children's Commissioner Christina Nomdo's vision is clear: For the young people she will represent to enjoy better childhoods and realise the full extent of their rights.
The veteran child rights activist, who will take up office on 1 June, will be tasked with monitoring, researching, investigating, lobbying and reporting on children and their best interests.
"By accepting this post, Ms Nomdo not only makes history by becoming the first Children's Commissioner in the country, but also becomes an advocate for children and a guardian of their rights," Premier Alan Winde said after she formally accepted the post.
Nomdo has vast experience in working with the youth, having served 30 years in the children's sector starting at grassroots level in Belhar where she was raised.
"There, I was given the opportunity to develop models of practice - first, in children's librarianship as a local government civil servant and then in youth development with a non-profit initiative focused on the training of health professionals," she said in a supplied biography.
Formally introduced to child rights theory and practice at the Children's Budget Unit at the Institute for Democracy in Southern Africa (Idasa), she thereafter worked for eight years as the director of RAPCAN (Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect).
RAPCAN became known for its innovative practice models to prevent violence against children, she said.
'Help to give children a voice'
"During my tenure, the advocacy of children's rights reached new levels and led to advancements of children's autonomy and participation rights. The spectrum of outputs ranged from a successful Constitutional Court challenge to clarify children's dignity and privacy rights to the production of music videos with children raising their voices against violence.
"The South African landscape of children's rights was changed forever."
Nomdo currently serves on the National Planning Commission after the Leadership Innovation Network for Collaboration in the Children's sector nominated her.
"Here I led an initiative - a global first - for children to be actively involved in the review of the National Development Plan. This project built on the 'Children Participating in Governance' initiative, piloted 15 years earlier," she said.
"The last four years at the National Planning Commission has enhanced my understanding of how government works as well as the value of being able to draw children into the governance arena.
"I am uniquely capable of connecting with children authentically. Insights from their lived realities are translated into development practice models and policy instruments."
Winde said children across the country faced many issues today, including poverty, crime, abuse and neglect.
"At the moment, children are also dealing with the uncertainty and fear around the coronavirus, with learning interrupted by school closures. The Children's Commissioner in the Western Cape will help to give children a voice, and to explore how they experience these issues, and their impact on children," he added.
'Prevention of violence against children'
Nomdo, who will work with the departments of education, social development, health, cultural affairs and sports to advance children's rights, said during the pandemic, these "social sector players are critical for ensuring child well-being".
"In the longer term, these departments are ideal for building the framework for the prevention of violence against children," she added.
The province was South Africa's child murder capital in 2017/18, according to statistics.
"The rate of child murder and child rape in the Western Cape will only decrease when society takes responsibility for the character of childhoods. We must change the experiences children have in childhood from being bombarded by violence in their homes, schools and communities," Nomdo said.
"Children must be able to play freely. They must be able to attain optimal health and be educated to reach their full potential. When children falter, they must be cushioned with sufficient safety nets to make them whole again.
"My vision is for children to enjoy better childhoods and realise the full extent of their rights."
Winde said while he and the provincial government supported Nomdo and her role, the Office of the Children's Commissioner must be independent in line with the Western Cape Commissioner for Children Act.