Child protection is everyone’s business


By Suzette Oosthuizen

It is worrying that in South Africa we need to create awareness about child protection when children, their rights and their safety should be everyone’s natural responsibility.

According to the requests for help that Solidarity Helping Hand’s social workers received for the period January 2022 to October 2023, our children are in crisis. The following figures were indicated: domestic violence reports (138), Children’s Court inquiries (186), child abuse (141), sexual abuse of children (54), child neglect (178).

At Solidarity Helping Hand’s therapy center in Pretoria North, the social workers repeatedly experience how children are let down by the system, as statutory investigations are delayed in being completed, court dates for hearings are postponed or cases are not placed on the roll at all. not. Cases at the SAPS are lost and children’s trauma cannot be addressed and processed. Children therefore become victims of their circumstances for a second time and are left helpless.

The center also made available the following frightening statistics of reports in the past year: children not in schools (10), child neglect (32), lack of health care (3), child abuse (44), signs of depression (77), no joining a church (78). These numbers should make each of us wake up.

Child Protection Week in South Africa, which takes place annually from the last week of May to the first week of June, is an important event that aims to raise awareness about children’s rights and the need to protect them from abuse and neglect.

The purpose of Child Protection Week is to raise public awareness of the challenges children face, including abuse, neglect, and exploitation. During this week, the focus is on promoting a safe and supportive environment for children, where they can thrive and develop.

The importance of a balanced approach where children are not only seen as recipients of rights, but also as active participants in society with specific responsibilities must be emphasized.

In South Africa, children have specific rights and responsibilities that are set out in various laws and legal documents. These rights and responsibilities are mainly contained in the Constitution and the Children’s Act. Below is a summary of the most important rights and responsibilities of children according to South African legislation:

Right to care and protection

Children have the right to be cared for and protected from abuse, neglect, exploitation and abuse (section 28 of the Constitution), but also have the responsibility to obey the laws of the land and the rules of their home and school and to protected from dangers and abuse.

Right to basic service delivery

Children have the right to access basic healthcare services, nutrition, shelter and social services (section 28 of the Constitution), but also have the responsibility to look after their eating habits and lifestyle and take care of their bodies.

Right to identity

Every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth, as well as the right to retain their identity (section 28 of the Constitution), but also has the responsibility to be proud of themselves and our country and must respect others.

Right to education

Children have the right to basic education, which is compulsory and free for the primary phases of education (section 29 of the Constitution), but also have the responsibility to attend school regularly, respect parents and teachers, learn, do homework do and develop themselves.

Right to freedom of opinion

Children have the right to express their opinion in matters that affect them, and these opinions must be taken into account according to their age and maturity (section 12 of the Children’s Act), but children also have the responsibility to listen to others with respect and to respect them.

Right to privacy

Children have the right to privacy, including the protection of their personal information (section 14 of the Children’s Act), but have the responsibility to respect the privacy of others.

Right to language, faith and culture

Every child has the right to be proud of their heritage, beliefs and faith, but they also have the responsibility to respect others.

Solidarity Helping Hand plays an invaluable role in protecting children in the community. The organization does this through their social workers, regional organizers and volunteers who network with schools and statutory family organizations in communities. Care, teaching, development and education are also offered at the Helping Hand Ons Plek nursery schools and after-school centres. The therapeutic social workers at Our Center in Pretoria North provide therapeutic services to approximately 45 traumatized children per week. Here, children are helped to come to terms with their past and embrace their future by hearing and addressing their trauma.

Child Protection Week reminds us that protecting children is a daily responsibility that we all share. Through awareness and active involvement we can make a difference and ensure a safer and more prosperous future for our children from South Africa.

  • Suzette Oosthuizen is Solidarity Helping Hand’s head of centers and national structures