CHILD PROTECTION WEEK

The week of 27 May 2013 to 02 June 2013 marks another annual child protection week commemoration.  Child Protection week was first observed in 1997 with the aim to ensure care and protection of children. This year’s theme is “working together to protect children”.

Children are every nation’s greatest asset for they are the future of every country.  Nelson Mandela once said “our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation.  They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care of and protect our people”.

There is a growing number of children in South Africa who are growing up in child-headed households, raised by grandparents and single parents.  It is under these circumstances that children are often exposed to abuse, neglect and exploitation.  As a country it is our duty to protect our children from any form of abuse, being physical, sexual, and emotional or otherwise.  There is a quote that says “it takes a village to raise a child” and this year’s theme centres on this.  Protecting a child shouldn’t be about yours only, but any other child that you see needs help.  We need to then pledge to combat the scourge of violence against children.  Our own newspapers are filled with horrible stories of children being physically, sexually and emotionally abused by their own parents or in hands of one of their parents’ partners; disabled children treated in an inhumane way.  These stories often leave some of us with tears in our eyes and you ask yourself, where were other people in this, are there no neighbours where the child resides?

Children need special protection because they are among the most vulnerable members of society. They are dependent on others – their parents and families, or the state when these fail – for care and protection.

As a result, the drafters of our Constitution have made children’s rights a priority – and have stated that the best interests of a child are the overriding concern when it comes to any matter affecting him or her.

Section 28 of the Bill of Rights, entitled “Children” can be summarised as follows: [1]

This section gives children the right to a name, citizenship and some form of care. Children need food and shelter, and should be protected from abuse, neglect and degradation. No child should work when under-age, or do work that would interfere with his or her education or development.

Children should be jailed only as a last resort and should not have to share a cell with adults. They should not take part in wars and should be protected during conflict.

The second sub-section, a very important clause, says a child’s interests are the most important consideration in any matter concerning the child.

That the Bill of Rights has a section devoted to children does not mean that the rights in the others sections do not apply to them too. The sections that deal with equality, human dignity, religion and health – as well as many others – are especially relevant and also apply to children.

I then leave you with a beautiful verse from the late Whitney Houston’s Greatest love of All:

I believe the children are our future

 Teach them well and let them lead the way

 Show them all the beauty they possess inside

 Give them a sense of pride to make it easier

 Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be

 

Let’s love our children not this week only but make it an everyday habit, spread the love to all the children especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Let’s teach our children to treat all children equal regardless of their circumstances for our own children learn from us.  Let’s instil discipline not fear, let us lead by example.