Raising awareness on Child Rights during Child Protection Week

UNICEF staff joined government officials with a visit to Lingcom Primary School in Umasizakhe to brief learners about their rights as children.

Sudeshan Reddy
UNICEF South Africa/2018/Khoza
01 June 2018

Ladybrand - Child Protection Week (CPW) in South Africa is an important fixture on the UNICEF calendar and has been commemorated since 1997. In a week-long series of programmes, campaigns and events, awareness is raised on the need to protect children against abuse, exploitation, neglect and all forms of violence. UNICEF views CPW as a key opportunity to highlight children’s issues in general, while noting the successes and identifying what still needs to be done. CPW 2018 took place from 27 May to 3 June under the leadership of the Department Social Development in partnership with various stakeholders, including UNICEF.

Among the initiatives over this week, UNICEF staff joined government officials with a visit to Lingcom Primary School in Umasizakhe to brief learners about their rights as children. Learners were also given information on how to report abuse and were urged to refrain from bullying each other and engaging in illegal activities. Children were placed in charge of the session, seizing the opportunity to engage stakeholders on safety issues and provided recommendations on what they believe are workable solutions.

The Chief of the Child Protection and Social Policy Section of UNICEF South Africa, Mayke Huijbregts spoke with the learners about their rights to be safe at all times and called for accountability and more coordinated action by all actors to keep children safe. “Families need to care for their children and if necessary be supported with parenting skills that prevents violence while health workers, social workers, teachers and other professionals need to be able to identify and refer children at risk to support services,” Ms. Huijbregts impored.

UNICEF South Africa/2018/Huibregts
A learner from Lingcom School addresses the closing of Child Protection Week in Ladybrand.

Addressing the Closing Ceremony of CPW was Sinah Moruane, the Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF South Africa. Held in the town of Ladybrand near the border with Lesotho, the event was attended by representatives of the Governments of South Africa and Lesotho. The protection of migrant children from Lesotho was highlighted by both government representatives and in her address, Ms. Moruane spoke of the Global Partnership to End Violence, of which South Africa became a member in 2017. “Accountability by all stakeholders is critical and there needs to be a commitment to promote gender equality underlying all these efforts” Ms. Moruane noted.

CPW is a reminder of the urgency to commit to changing social norms that underpin violence, such as gender disparities that promote violent forms of masculinity and the stigma associated with reporting family violence. Religious and community leaders, artists and men and boys have a particularly important role to play in providing positive role models and speaking out against violence while police, social workers and the judiciary need to ensure that when children or families report violence. Effective, timely action must then be taken to keep them safe, and services be made available to support their recovery.

Underlying all this, UNICEF believes, is the need to urgently scale up funding and support to effective prevention and early intervention programmes so that Child Protection Week has its full impact.