JOHANNESBURG, 23 March 2011 – With human rights on the minds of all South Africans this week, the South African Human Rights Commissions (SAHRC) and UNICEF have drawn attention to the rights of a particularly vulnerable group in society – children.
Today saw the official opening of a three-day seminar on ‘Equity in the Realisation of Child Rights in South Africa’ which will provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on the country’s achievements in the realisation of child rights, and examine the reasons that lie behind persistent disparities. The event will draw extensively on experts in the field of child rights from civil society, government, and academia.
“The South African Human Rights Commission is concerned with the disparities that currently exist in the realisation of children’s rights in South Africa. While there have been significant resources allocated towards the betterment of children’s lives, the majority of children in South Africa live in poverty, and their basic needs are not met,” said Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate, the South African Human Rights Commission’s commissioner responsible for child rights
Such disparity is starkly visible in the health sector: although child mortality rates in South Africa are on the decline, they remain high for a middle-income country and one in 16 children dies before their fifth birthday. Available data shows that children in the poorest 20 per cent of households are four times more likely to die before the age of five years than the wealthiest children.
The SAHRC and UNICEF hope that the seminar will help to give meaningful effect to the constitutional provisions relating to the rights of the child. Provision of basic services in the country needs to be driven through a human rights approach, which is informed by the principle of equity. Equity demands that programmes and services specifically address the needs of all children and ensure that they enjoy the right to equality of opportunity in life.
“Translating child rights from principles into action is about looking behind national aggregates with an equity lens so we can identify children who are deprived, analyse the patterns and drivers of inequity, and put in place policies that address disparities,” said UNICEF Representative in South Africa, Aida Girma.
“Even as South Africa is making progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, we see gaps between the richest and poorest children widening,” added Ms. Girma.
The basis for discussions during the workshop will be a statistical review of South Africa’s children which will be launched on day two of the workshop. Entitled South Africa's Children - A Review of Equity and Child Rights, the report examines the situation of children in the country through an equity and child rights lens. It is intended to assist those persons and institutions that work towards the realisation of children’s rights in South Africa to base their advocacy with state institutions and other agents in the child rights on solid statistical evidence.
“Through continuous reflection on South Africa’s progress in the realisation of children’s rights, and rigorous engagement with government and relevant stakeholders, we will ensure that all children, irrespective of the circumstances they are born into, have a chance of a life of dignity and respect and can thus contribute meaningfully towards the development of their country,” said Commissioner Mokate.
The SAHRC has dedicated the entire 2011 Human Rights month to children.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For further enquiries:
Vincent Moaga, Human Rights Commission,
Mobile + 073 562 9866;
Kate Pawelczyk, UNICEF,
Mobile + 082 336 5565;