As a mother of 3 young children, child protection week is always a grim reminder of all the terrible things that happen to children. You only have to follow the news to see how many children’s lives are forever altered because they were not protected by the very adults who should.
Someone once said ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to child protection, ignorance can be fatal. In 2009 44, 5% of child homicides were due to abuse or neglect. I found it disturbing to note that 59% of the primary care givers interviewed for the SA national survey on attitude to corporal punishment reported using belts, sticks or other objects to discipline their children, and according to Child Gauge (2014) 1.1million young children reported exposure to violent conflict in their home. I will not allow myself to be ignorant, regardless of how unpleasant the information is.
Working the early childhood development space and particularly from my experience working in under-resourced communities with vulnerable children, it is even more concerning to me to note that so many child abuse cases go unreported.
So I have to wonder do we do enough to protect our children.
Child protection week was launched in 2007 by the Department of Social Development who hoped to mobilise all sectors of society to take part in the fight to protect children. Article 28 of the South African constitution clearly defines children’s rights for us. There are many civil society organisations who offer a range of programmes that not only promote children’s rights but also aim to assist children and their families if they have been victims of abuse. Considering all the efforts we still see alarmingly high child abuse stats.
So what can I, as an individual (and you) do to ensure children are safe?
- Accept that abuse effects all of us regardless of culture, socio economic status, residential area, and social standing
- Talk about the problem and more importantly the solutions – to our children, teachers, religious leaders, political figures, family members, colleges and neighbours – talk to anyone who will listen and help
- Give children the freedom to express themselves, share their experiences and discuss their concerns
- Support and promote initiatives like Cotlands’ campaign to create safe places for children to play.
- Mobilise the relevant resources by reporting all infringements on children’s rights
- Offering my time, expertise and support to the programmes that are touching the lives of the children in my community
- Advocate for children’s rights whenever I have the opportunity
Child protection is a societal issue that has far reaching effects on all of us. So, no I don’t think I will ever do enough to guarantee my own children’s safety, but have to trust that by taking a stand and being outspoken about child’s rights, my own children will at least know they are loved and have an adult who will protect them.
To end I’d like to quote our CEO Jackie Schoeman, “children are our most precious resource, protecting them should be our priority”.