Keynote address by Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, during children's parliament, at the Eastern Cape Legislature
8 Jun 2012
Eastern Cape Premier, Ms Noxolo Kiviet,
MEC for Social Development in Eastern Cape, Dr Pemmy Majodina,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to address you on the topic which is aimed at making Eastern Cape and the rest of the country a suitable environment for all children to live in. Although the Child Protection Week (CPW) campaign was commemorated last week, we believe that the protection of children and their rights are important for public dialogue.
Allow me to kick start this session by quoting from the words of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela who said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Based on what President Mandela said, we remain committed as government to entrench the values of a caring society which prioritise the needs of its children.
The government is working tirelessly to protect the rights of children against abuse and neglect. To showcase our determination, we have put in place policies and laws which are targeting at eradicating the victimisation of children through child labour, child trafficking, economic abuse as well as using young and innocent children as sex slaves.
To eliminate the abuse of children and uphold their constitutional rights, government developed the legal instruments such as the Children’s Act. This piece of comprehensive legislation seeks to provide all the necessary care, protection and assistance for children to develop to their full potential. The Children’s Act also assists children to be able to assume their responsibilities within their communities in respect of their potential.
This Act makes visible our commitment to ensure that all South Africans work together for precise upbringing of children. We therefore have a collective responsibility to prioritise the developmental needs of children and also recognise their rights to grow up in a caring, loving and harmonious environment.
It is in this context that we encourage all citizens including parents Child Caregivers to make provision for the physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional and social development of children. This is also the responsibility of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other community structures to be involved in protecting disabled children against discrimination and exploitation.
In a quest to discourage and expose people who abuse and ill-treat children we also have the Child Protection Register which list all persons with criminal record including those who were entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of our children. The Child Protection Register is used to check if a potential caregiver has never been involved in any form of criminal activities especially those which may put the lives of children at risk. We are working according to the guidelines of this register to guarantee the safety and protection of our children.
However, government is aware that abuse can take place through various forms including abuse of the Child Support Grant (CSG) which are paid monthly to cater for the needs of all children who qualify and deserve social assistance. After questions and concerns from different circles of society on whether social grants are sustainable or not. The Department of Social Development launched the CSG study in Cape Town last month which identified that many use these grants to buy food and pay school fees for the children.
This study further reveals that only few people abuse these grants and we call upon all members of society to report parents and guardians who misuse the child support grants by reporting them to the nearest social workers. While we are fighting corruption through the re-registration of grant beneficiaries, a role which is being conducted by South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), children also have a responsibility to report parents who misuse these grants to the law enforcement agencies, including police.
We encourage child caregivers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) especially who are working directly with children to familiarise themselves with the contents of the Children’s Act. Government departments including the departments of Social Development, Justice, Health, Basic Education, Labour and the South African Police Service (SAPS) are working together with NGOs to protect our children.
I was impressed by the Face book social network when they announced recently that it will be introducing a new site for children under the age of fifteen and I believe this is a step towards the right direction. This announcement will assist in protecting minors and children against exposure to pornographic images. I hope that other social networks will follow this positive step in the interest of our children.
I urge all the youth of South Africa including the future parliamentarians to be actively involved in the policy making processes of their country. As a law making body, parliament needs informed members who are not lazy to read. We therefore call upon those who would like to represent their people in future, to familiarise themselves with the laws of this country without exclusion of the Children’s Act.
Let me highlight that all victimised children have the right to protection without discrimination of any kind irrespective of their including race, gender, disability, language and other status such as immigration status. The right to care and protection, as defined by the Act, must be considered at all times regardless of whether the child is disabled or a non-South African citizen.
With the child-centred approach in mind, government is committed to promote the care and protection of children who are at risk or have been exploited. Such approach should be child-centred and focus on the child’s rights and needs of children. Child caregivers must engage with children and their families throughout this process.
It is also our priority to promote children’s participation by ensuring that children have the right to information which affects their lives and are protected from secondary abuse. The relationship between the practitioner and a child must be based on trust in order to uphold confidentiality and safety of a child in the process of decision-making. Concerns of children, caregivers and parents are taken into consideration before any decision can be made.
As we all know that prevention is better than cure, the Department of Social Development has a three pronged definition of prevention which include the Primary, Secondary as well as Tertiary prevention. The primary prevention allows households to avoid problems or dysfunction. It is further directed at households, vulnerable groups and communities who may not have any signs of problems.
The secondary prevention is aiming at the identifying problems and early intervention into the lives of individuals, families and groups who are at risk of developing social problems before the situation becomes critical. Our third and last prevention measure is targeting individuals and families with critical problems or dysfunction. The focus is on intervention, healing, rehabilitation and the prevention of further problems or possible removal of children for placement in alternative care.
All these interventions are necessary for building effective and sustainable families and communities in the interests of children. They are also important aspects of social service delivery aimed at minimising risk, particularly in situations of increased vulnerability.
In conclusion, we all have a role to play and contribute towards the upbringing of children. This indicates that all South Africans have to protect our children against many forms of social ills including amongst others exploitation, neglect, human trafficking and sexual abuse.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
8 Jun 2012
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