Speech by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, at the Gogo Getters event in Mpumalanga
12 Aug 2011
MEC for Health and Social Development, Dr Clifford Mkasi
Acting HOD, Ms Mlangeni
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me begin by quoting Maya Angelou, the African American author and feminist who once wrote that: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
This quote reminds us that older people are indeed beautiful souls and in order to become that, they have lived life to the fullest. Over their life times they have had triumphs and failures, contributed to society through good deeds and also through things they may have regretted and learnt from.
Older persons are like the butterflies that Maya Angelou refers to and are blessed with a beauty forged through the experience of having been young once. Throughout their course of life, they have acquired lessons and wisdom that we should learn from so that we too, can become wise and wonderful butterflies that continue to make life worth living for generations to come.
It is therefore great to see those in our society who are the custodians of wisdom coming forward to shape a better future for our children. Older persons have always been the reservoir and propagators of positive values, which is important as we strive to build a better and successful nation. Our society must care for older people and nurture the role that older persons play in the evolution of society.
It is therefore important for us to acknowledge the value of older persons as torchbearers who form the bedrock for future development. All sectors of society should therefore, be encouraged to recognise and appreciate the collective experience, skills and wisdom that accompanies those amongst us who have lived longer and have acquired experience to overcome challenges that many of us still have to encounter. It is therefore, good common sense to learn from knowledge and life experiences of older members of our families and communities.
Our country faces many social problems which need to be tackled by various stakeholders, including government, the private sector and civil society. The high levels of poverty and inequality, and the impact of HIV and AIDS in communities have caused serious strains on many families.
Families have become dysfunctional with children assuming the responsibility to take care of their siblings as a result of illness and deaths associated with the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This essentially deprives children of the required care and support necessary for a better future.
The growing number of orphans places a huge burden of care on extended family networks and communities that traditionally support these children. There are insufficient social workers to deal with these challenges. We need a network of activist citizens who will provide care and support services to bridge the gap created by the shortage of social workers and other care workers.
We are aware that many older persons have assumed responsibilities of caring for the ill in their homes, especially those infected by HIV. In instances where particularly young parents have passed on, the orphaned children left behind are also cared for by the grandparents. This is but one of the major contributions that older persons continue to make in an effort to preserve and strengthen families.
Older persons also give children the love and care that they deserve. In this process, they instil progressive African values among children that are necessary for building the kinds of values needed for a more cohesive society. Older persons are therefore a source of hope and inspiration to all of us, including the children and young people in our communities.
Older persons are therefore living assets whose rights and dignity must be promoted and protected. My department has a mandate to do that through creating a framework that empowers and protects older persons in terms of their rights, status, well-being, as well as safety and security.
In March this year, we launched the South African Charter on the Rights of Older Persons in collaboration with the South African Older Persons Forum. The Charter is an important step in our endeavours to build a caring society for older persons. Our view is that older persons must live purposeful and meaningful lives. Old age should be a time of new freedom – it must not mean you must be taken advantage of or be subjected to any form of abuse or victimisation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The basis for providing a caring and supportive environment for older persons is guided by the principles associated with active ageing. Active ageing requires a society that enables older persons to be actively involved in all aspects of life in society. We are working with our partners in civil society including community based organisations and non-governmental organisations to achieve this.
Amongst our partners is LoveLife, who help us strengthen support to orphans and vulnerable children through the Gogo Getter Programme. Gogo Getters are a part of a network of 500 grandmothers across South Africa, who support orphans and vulnerable teenagers and their younger siblings to develop a sense of purpose and belonging in life and stay HIV free.
Their aim is to champion the cause of close to 10 000 young people, to make them feel they belong, keep them at school, assist them to secure access to social security grants, prevent physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and keep them from hunger. Many of these children come from families whose members are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
We have a responsibility to create an environment of care, protection and support for children. It is for this reason that we announced in the 2011 Budget Vote that we plan to recruit and train 10 000 Child and Youth Care Workers over the next three years to support children living in child-headed households, using the Isibindi Model.
Based on available evidence it appears that the Isibindi model is workable for the provision of prevention, protection and early intervention services for children. We therefore plan to replicate the services associated with the Isibindi approach to 1,4 million vulnerable children in different communities over the next five years. We will focus our work in rural and informal settlements, especially areas of high HIV and AIDS prevalence and poverty
This initiative will contribute towards government’s priorities on education and health by ensuring that children stay in school and have access to nutritious food through the school nutrition programme and Early Childhood Development, among others. In addition, it will ensure that they are protected from abuse and have access to social assistance. To date, 536 000 foster care benefits are paid out to different beneficiaries.
In conclusion, I must highlight that efforts must be made to enable people to live healthy, active, fulfilling lives in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. To date, more than 2 million eligible older persons receive the State Old Age Pension. Research has clearly shown that the provision of old age pensions not only benefits older persons, but that it helps the whole family including their children, grandchildren and even other members in their community.
We are here to thank the older persons of Mpumalanga for the role they continue to play in caring for the needy children.
My heartfelt thanks and may you continue to nurture all of us.
Source: Department of Social Development
Issued by: Department of Social Development
12 Aug 2011
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