Let’s make the creation of a safe and protective environment for all children a national priority
Pretoria, 30 May 2011 – As Child Protection Week kicks off in South Africa, from 30 May to 3 June 2011, UNICEF joins the call of the Department of Social Development to make the creation of a safe and protective environment for all children a national priority.
Under the theme ‘Working together to protect our children’ the launch of Child Protection Week on Monday brought together the Departments of Social Development, Women, Children and People with Disabilities and Correctional Services, NGOs, the private sector and UNICEF.
"The theme for CPW is based on the belief that protecting children is the responsibility of each and every one of us. We must strengthen our collective efforts....the extent of violence against children requires us to take extra measures, like those we have taken against HIV," said Lulu Xingwana, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities.
While Government reiterated its commitment to respecting, protecting and fulfilling child rights, Child Protection Week reminds us that protecting children is not the sole responsibility of formal child protection services, but it is everybody's business – family members, neighbours, communities, local leaders, teachers and health care professionals.
“We need to work together to create a protective environment for all children – an environment where everyone – from teachers to government and civil society – live up to their responsibilities to ensure that children are protected from abuse and exploitation,” said UNICEF Representative Aida Girma at the launch event.
The extent of child protection violations is notoriously hard to measure, but evidence suggest that from their younger years through adolescence, many girls and boys in South Africa are routinely exposed to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
The publication A Review of Equity and Child Rights, co-published by the South African Human Rights Commission and UNICEF earlier this year, shows that violence against children occurs on a large scale and in any of the settings where children spend their childhood – in homes and families, schools, care and justice systems, workplaces and communities.
The report highlights that:
However, in many instances, violence against children is under-reported because young children lack the capacity to report violence and fear reprisals from perpetrators. Much violence is committed within the family and by people known to the family, who may block children’s access to justice.
Creating a protective environment for all children means putting in place legal and policy frameworks; strengthening the capacity of child protection services to enforce the laws and policies of the country; and raising awareness levels of the public and children themselves on the right of children to be protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation. It also means strengthening monitoring systems so that children who are abused or at risk of being abused are identified.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires all signatory States to protect children from all forms of violence, to prevent and respond to violence, and provide support to children who are victims of violence. South Africa ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995. The rights of children are further entrenched in and protected by the Bill of Rights in South Africa’s Constitution. Forward-looking laws have since been put in place to ensure the protection and realisation of children’s rights, among them the Children’s Act, the Child Justice Act and the Sexual Offences Act.
“We cannot be satisfied until the realisation of child rights is experienced by all children in their daily lives,” said Ms. Girma. “I trust we would all agree that there will never be anything that is more important than promoting the well-being and fulfilling the rights of children.”
Keep an eye on children in your community and report any acts of violence neglect or abuse.