Child protection

UNICEF is committed to ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for every child.

boy-on-swing
UNICEF South Africa/2015/Schermbrucker

The challenge

A third of girls in South Africa experience some form of violence, often from someone they know.

Violence against children remains a critical challenge facing South African society today, despite tremendous efforts to curb this scourge. The legacy of violence and extreme inequality from South Africa’s past is compounded by high poverty and unemployment in the present. This combination places many children at risk of domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. The scale of violence in South Africa alone is deeply worrying. Perhaps more concerning is how violence has become normalised in everyday life; weaving abuse and neglect into the country’s societal fabric.

Violence disproportionately affects the most vulnerable and has taken new forms:

  • With South Africa’s huge HIV burden, millions of children are without parents and are placed at further risk in child-headed households.
  • South Africa is a major destination for refugees fleeing crises, but their children face discrimination and are often denied access to school and healthcare services.
  • Gender-based violence is an emergency in South Africa. While young boys are victims of all forms of violence, there are shocking levels of violence, especially sexual violence including rape, perpetrated against girls and young women.
  • As children and young people lead the digital uptake in South Africa, they are not only being exposed to violent material online but also becoming victims of cyberbullying.

The solution

woman-walking-with-children
UNICEF South Africa/2015/Schermbrucker

UNICEF is committed to ending violence against children, gender-based violence and femicide.

UNICEF is working tirelessly towards the vision of a South Africa free of violence. While the scale of this challenge is daunting, with focused policy, advocacy and intervention – and with the joint commitment and resources of the South African government and other partners in civil society, the media, communities and businesses – this vision can become a reality. In protecting children and combatting violence in all its forms, we prioritise:

  1. Changing policy and raising awareness through advocacy and social mobilisation are key in combatting the normalisation of gender inequality. Through increased public awareness, education and responsive policies, we can end violence. 
  2. Prevention and early intervention aims to establish programmes (like Safe Parks and Men Care), unlock investments and provide technical support to the justice sector in preventing violence against children and assisting victims.
  3. Social welfare and child protection systems strengthening are critical in delivering targeted cash transfers (via the Cash Plus programme) and ensuring that South Africa’s social workforce are highly trained in evidence-based best practice.