Address by the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Mrs Maria Bongi Ntuli, on the occasion of the International Day of Families (IDF), at Perdekop, Mpumalanga
15 May 2012Programme Director,
MEC for Health and Social Development, Dr Clifford Mkasi,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Sanibonani, Molweni, Dumelang!
It is a privilege for me to address you on the commemoration of the International Day of Families, which gives us a platform to acknowledge the important role played by families in society.
This occasion reminds us that the family is a basic and natural unit which plays a crucial role in nurturing and caring for individual family members, from children, to youth, men, women, people living with disabilities and older persons. We are here to remind all South Africans about the need for this unit to remain solid and for its members to work together in an effort to build strong and vibrant communities.
We are also using this platform to launch the Green Paper on Families, which was approved by Cabinet last year, for public engagement. The Green Paper emphasises the need for all to build strong families that protect the most vulnerable members of our society.
The theme for this year’s event is “Ensuring Work - Family Balance”, which is precisely about reconciling work and family life.
The reality is that families find it difficult to reconcile the competing necessities of their work and family obligations. The burden of care placed on women tends to limit their access to employment and social participation. It is for this reason that equality in opportunities, access to resources and equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women as well as respect for the rights of all family members are essential for both the well-being of the family and that of the society at large.
We note that in instances where both women and men are employed, the domestic workload still remains the responsibility of women for the most part, a fact that remains largely unaddressed in the context of both legal and policy frameworks.
We therefore need to establish comprehensive legal and policy frameworks balancing work and family life that allow for shared care responsibility between men and women, other family members, the State, the private sector and society as a whole.
Society should recognise the equal value of both work and family life. Such transformation would ensure that care giving responsibility is shared between men and women with society at large, including the responsibility of the State. In essence, both men and women have a right to paid employment without being forced to neglect their family responsibilities. Fathers must no longer be regarded merely as breadwinners but also as full partners in co-parenting. This is even more necessary in a world where, amongst others, there is a rise in women’s professional and educational status and the corresponding increase in the importance of their earnings and new demands on their professional careers.
In response to these trends, new father sensitive policies, such as statutory paternal leave and flexible working provisions, facilitating the increased role of men in care giving, have been adopted in several countries, particularly in Europe.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One of the major challenges facing families is the problem of domestic violence, especially gender based violence. As a country, we come from a violent past where the majority of the people were brutalised and violently attacked, including through the use of state resources and machineries.
This violence extended into the homes, where men steeped in the ideology of patriarchy, and some would after feeling emasculated by the political and economic systems, exercise force over their female spouses and children.
Parents who witnessed and experienced violence on a daily basis operated within an environment where it was the norm to use violence and particularly physical force as a means to discipline their children. The use of violence to discipline children extended to the schooling system.
Given this context, the South African government has developed an Integrated Crime Prevention Strategy that seeks to the key drivers of social ills. The strategy emphasises the prevention of crime rather than only relying on the criminal justice process to arrest and convict offenders. A key issue highlighted in the strategy is the need for collaborative action by all the actors in our society. This includes government, non-governmental organisations, business and community members.
The strategy seeks to ensure that we work towards breaking the cycle and culture of violence.Amongst others, this means ensuring that the state refrains from institutional violence. This requires that our police services do their work in a manner that is respectful of all people that they engage with and that educators comply with the law prohibiting physical and violent forms of punishment.
In fact, the Children’s Act adopts a developmental approach, emphasising the state’s role in strengthening the capacity of families and communities to care for and protect children, and provides for measures to prevent children being separated from their families. We are very happy that the focus of Child Protection Week this year is on strengthening families with emphasis on positive discipline and to raise awareness on the prevention and early intervention programmes and services to children and families.
Allow me to also highlight the importance of older persons in nurturing children and the youth to become responsible citizens in the future. The older persons within families are critical for the transmission of culture, heritage and positive values within families. They are the support system within families, they care for orphans and vulnerable children, and they use their social pension to educate their grandchildren, especially orphaned grandchildren. Irrespective of these important roles, older persons also experience challenges due to abuse, sometimes by their very own family members.
We call on families to support and care for older persons, and not see them as a burden. We have a responsibility to ensure that their rights are protected and that they are treated with respect and dignity.
We must rely on their wisdom and life experiences to tackle some of the social ills we face today. In particular, the scourge of alcohol and substance abuse has devastating effects for families. It affects children, youth and adults. It is associated with a lot of social ills including unsafe sexual practices or rape that could lead to the spread of HIV and AIDS, unplanned pregnancies, aggressive behavior and domestic violence.
It is worrying that families can get economically affected by the effects of alcohol and substance abuse. For instance, a family member can loose his or her job because of absenteeism caused by substance abuse. Concerted efforts should be taken to reduce the social risks faced by families by developing social support systems and encouraging the development of education programmes to enhance the ability of families to take care of their members. Appropriate care and support should be provided to all family members.
In conclusion, we want to use this important occasion to re-emphasise the need for families and communities to support and protect people with disabilities. People with disabilities are members of families who are mostly neglected in terms of care and understanding. These family members sometimes are ostracised by their siblings such that they end up living in absolute poverty due to lack of socio-economic support.
Communities must promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. People with disabilities form part of families and communities and they have a right to be heard, to be understood and to evolve like everyone else. The marginalisation of people with disabilities limits their potential to contribute to society.
Working together, we can do more to create a caring society.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
15 May 2012
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