Plea for collective action amid SA’s child protection failures

Founding president of democratic South Africa Nelson Mandela’s words still resonate strongly: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation.”

However, the stark reality is far from this ideal, as the nation faces a grave crisis concerning the safety and wellbeing of its children.

In recent years, South Africa has witnessed a disturbing rise in cases of child abuse, violence, and neglect.

Child abuse casts dark cloud over SA

Tragically, stories of children being raped, abused, and even killed have become all too common, casting a dark shadow over South Africa’s future.

The National Children’s Day Dialogue held at the JSE conference centre in Sandton on Thursday provided a platform for a sobering discussion about the challenges the country face in safeguarding its future leaders.

Development consultant Janet du Preez highlighted the concerning state of the country’s child protective systems.

In her address, Du Preez ranked South Africa as one of the weakest nations among emerging countries with established child protective systems.

Also present at the event was Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who stressed that addressing the issue should begin at home and within communities, “instead of blaming the government or its policies”.

It all begins in our homes

Zulu emphasised the need to create a nurturing environment for children through individual and collective efforts, urging citizens to take responsibility for their surroundings.

“We talk about policies being good or bad, we must celebrate those policies, but we must then go beyond celebrating and actually implement them,” Zulu said.

“Implementing them starts with house-to-house, street-to-street, and community-to-community.

“Let us collectively find a way of making sure that we make a change. It is about creating a conducive environment. [It] is about us parents and grandparents doing something.

“We can talk about the collective, but if we do not do anything individually starting from the people that live around us, we will never be able to get anywhere.”

Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu pointed to cases including the youngest drug addict she encountered being just three years old, and a rising number of teenage pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 14.

She said while South Africa has policies to protect its children, the challenge lies in the effective implementation of such policies.

During the dialogue, it was unanimously agreed that the old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”, no longer holds true.

It takes a village to raise a child

Participants acknowledged the need for collective responsibility and unity to ensure a safer and better future for children.

Zulu emphasised that child welfare extends beyond South Africa’s borders, and urged the continent to unite and work towards creating a conducive environment for children.

She added that children’s wellbeing is a concern that transcends national boundaries.

Moreover, the minister drew inspiration from recent successes of local sports teams including the Springboks who won the Rugby World Cup in France at the weekend.

She called for a similar winning spirit to be channeled into all aspects of life.

“There is a winning streak in South Africa, can we extend that winning streak not only to sport, but extend it to everything that we do in South Africa,” Zulu said.

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