Our children must be protected

Henry

I pinned my green bow tie to my jacket this week. I stood watching some of my other staff do it as well and I saw once again everywhere on social pages how the green bow was put in the spotlight.

This green stitch symbolizes life and growth – it shows that you care, that you stand for child protection and show solidarity with the victims of child abuse.

When I wear this bow, it does hang heavy on my chest. The bow is filled with thousands of children’s faces, thousands of children’s aching hearts, thousands of cases of injustice committed. It really hangs heavy, but it also hangs in hope. Hope for a future where we can stand up against child abuse, where we will report it when we hear or see it.

Here at Helpende Hand, we ran the Will to Help campaign in March where we explained to the community that it is so important, in fact your duty, to report child abuse.

I read in the newspapers how a mother lies on top of her baby to protect the baby during an attack by a dog. I read how dads put themselves in the way of the enemy and take the shot on behalf of their children, but then I also see how moms and dads hurt their own children. Their children are crushed by words, but also physical and sexual abuse. These children’s bodies are broken, but they also have hope for the future.

“Sons are gifts from the Lord, children are given by Him.” So reads Psalms 127:3.

Here we clearly see and read that the Lord gives us children as gifts. How can people so despise this gift and then hurt so much? When the Lord clearly says that children are a gift from him, how dare we mistreat this gift? And how dare we not fight for the future of our children?

I encourage you to make yourself a green bow and wear it proudly on your chest and thereby show that you also believe in the protection of our children in South Africa. Solidarity Helping Hand’s social department focuses particularly on social workers’ involvement in the protection of vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Our goal is to equip community members with knowledge and make a positive impact by raising awareness, promoting understanding and encouraging community involvement.

Child abuse is a reality with which we live in South Africa and with which our communities are confronted. If our children are our future, it is crucial that we ensure their prosperity. We must create spaces where our children can be free, safe and prosperous in our beautiful country.

A child just has to be able to be a child. She needs to be able to play doll safely without looking over her shoulder all the time. He must be able to sit and do his homework in a healthy environment. They must be able to dream about a future filled with love, success and a community that cares.

Louise Zitzke, a social worker for Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal North at Solidarity Helping Hand, writes:

“In a quiet town, where secrets and the soft wind fill the streets, a little girl crossed my path. Her eyes told a story of loss, pain, and neglect – a story that carries whispers of abuse and invisible scars in the wind.

“I remember the day when an anxious teacher contacted me about the alleged abuse of a little girl. Rumors of possible abuse have been in the air for a long time, but the community tried to assist the family. Each of us has fallen for a lie that we regret, and unfortunately some community members believed the best of the family. The school paid attention to the marks on her body, but discussions with the parents only led to a short-term improvement.

“As a child you know every playground on your yard, but for the little girl it was not a playground – rather a reminder of what happens when you are “naughty”. A tool room where she could work with her father became a place of punishment for her. Eating with her family was not a given, because she could only come out of her room to get her food and when she went to school.

“The day she was taken to a foster care home and looked at me with teary eyes, her words are deep and heartbreaking: ‘Promise me I don’t have to go back, Auntie. They don’t love me.’ This tragic reality made me realize that reports are not just a procedure, but an urgent cry for justice and protection.”

As social workers, we are not only mediators in the process of child removal; we are a beacon of hope and support for families before they reach that crisis point. The job of a social worker is not only to save children, but to help families before they reach the point of irrevocable separation.

The little girl’s flesh may be far removed from the circumstances, but her spirit still carries the burden of the past. The psychic scars, the emotional trauma and the road of recovery before her are proof of the necessity to report alleged abuse early on. As a community we must come together, not only to offer aftercare, but to be actively aware of the signs and symptoms of possible abuse.

Child abuse is a shadow that hangs not only over individual lives, but over the entire community. Our social workers, together with schools and communities, must work together to not only respond but prevent. May this sad story be a reminder that every child has a voice and that it is our duty to listen to it, so that we can help children to experience love.

We work with these types of stories every day at Helpende Hand. We see these little faces before us. When I wear this green bow, he hangs heavier because of it. It hangs for thousands of others like this little girl. The hang for hope, for hope in a world that sometimes seems hopeless.

This green bow has each of these children’s names on it and when I take the bow off tonight and put it on my bedside table, I pray for each of them. I also pray for a community that will also take the task upon themselves to be the beacon of hope for our children. And tomorrow morning when I wake up and pin the bow to my chest again, I know I will work another day to fight for these children. And I know there is always hope, even if sometimes everything just looks dark. There is always hope.