Acting Premier of the Northern Cape,
Ministers of Social Development as well as Women, Children and Persons with Disability,
MECs and local government representatives,
Community of Kimberley,
Members of the Media,
We have come together to launch a very important campaign which enables us to invest in the future of our country.
Child Protection Week, which begins tomorrow until the 3rd of June, must unite all South Africans behind the noble goal of protecting our children, the nation’s most important resource.
We have come together to launch this campaign with good reason.
We have to work together to protect children in distress, children who suffer neglect, abuse or exploitation and children who live in extreme poverty and for whom life still remains a struggle despite the progress made since the dawn of freedom.
Our elders taught us that it takes a village to raise a child.
That is why we say umntwana wakho, ngumntwana wami, your child is my child. We must raise and protect our children together.
Let me from the onset, thank all our partners who have consistently participated in Child Protection Week activities each year.
We thank and re-invite the faith based organisations, the media, nongovernmental and community organisations, business and labour, women and youth formations to join us again in promoting a South Africa that is free of child neglect, abuse and exploitation.
Section 28 of the Constitution outlines all the rights accorded to the children of our country.
The Children’s Act which came into operation in 2010, gives meaning to the rights outlined in the Constitution.
The law sets out the principles relating to care and protection of children which define parental responsibilities in the interest of the rights of our children.
This Act further upholds amongst other aspects, the rights of children in need of care and protection.
We acknowledge and appreciate the participation of nongovernmental organisations in the 10 year process of developing the Children’s Act. This was a remarkable process of collaboration with all sectors of society.
We must now take that collaboration further by promoting this progressive legislation.
It is important for children to know the Children’s Act. And while it is important for children to know the law, the ultimate responsibility rests with us all as adults, particularly parents, teachers and caregivers.
We must all make an effort to know the Children’s Act so that we can educate our children.
In the State of the Nation Address in February we identified three challenges that confront our country. These are poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Many families grapple with these challenges, which impacts on children more than the adults and make them vulnerable.
Government is using its focus on five priorities to prioritise children. Those are education, health, rural development, creating decent work and the fight against crime.
With regards to creating decent work, we are investing a lot in promoting economic development, through the New Growth Path and other programmes.
We launched the infrastructure development programme this year, which will help to create jobs, while also improving social infrastructure such as water, electricity and roads in our communities. This in the long run, will improve the living conditions of children.
With regards to alleviating poverty, government is doing a lot for children.
Eight million children attend school without paying fees as part of the no-fee schools initiative. In addition, eight million children receive nutritious meals daily from government’s school feeding scheme to improve concentration and performance in school.
More than 10 million children benefit from social grants. The child support grant in particular supports many children in the payments of school fees or transport as research has shown.
Government also continues efforts to improve access to basic education and health care through building infrastructure such as schools and refurbishing hospitals, and improving service delivery in the two sectors. Much more still needs to be done, but progress is being made in a number of areas.
While government is doing a lot, there are a number of things that communities and sectors can also do to protect children.
Firstly, we must strengthen families.
The colonial and apartheid eras laid a negative foundation for families, through policies such as the migrant labour system.
The absence of men from the villages created female-headed households and absent fathers.
The migrant labour system thus severely undermined African family life and created the risk of disintegration. This compounds the economic and social conditions of poverty and unemployment.
To respond to the policy gap on the family, we have introduced a Green Paper on the Family through the Department of Social Development.
We invite key stakeholders to engage this discussion document which will help us to produce a policy on the family in our country. In working to strengthen the family we must also look at the position of women.
The Green Paper alludes to the fact that women, particularly black women, carried a double burden under colonialism and apartheid, as they remained subordinate to both men and a settler population.
Hence, women’s choices were severely limited because of their gender.
They could not get jobs as men were prioritised then. The situation has changed slightly but not satisfactorily yet, in this era of democracy.
In formulating the family policy we have looked carefully at the position of women and children in society in a manner that strengthens families and communities.
When we improve the conditions and status of women, we improve the lives of children.
Secondly ladies and gentlemen,
We must invest in a better society in the way we raise children. We must promote the positive values of Ubuntu and Respect. Our children must know that they have to respect themselves, their parents, peers and every other member of society.
Respect is a basic human value, without it, a human being is unable to live and interact with others in all spheres of life.
Our children must understand and practice ubuntu. They must have a basic appreciation of the humanity of others and their rights to human dignity.
Let us teach our children the basics of non-racialism, equality and diversity as enshrined in the Constitution. Children of all races must be told the truth about what transpired in South Africa over three centuries.
They must know the painful truth of how the black majority was oppressed and dehumanised and treated as settlers in their own country.
They must know what racism is, and all its manifestations.
In this way we will raise the children to become adults who are not in denial about their country’s past and about challenges that still need to be addressed with regards to social cohesion and nation building.
Certain incidents have happened in the country this month which necessitate a more honest look at our society and where we are in the nation building project.
For example we have been reminded of the period of slavery in the 1800s when our sister Sarah Baartman, was exhibited in London and Paris because the shape of her body was a novelty in Europe.
It did not occur to those who did this to her that she was human and deserved to be treated with respect and dignity.
When Sarah Baartman died, her brains and genitals were preserved in jars and also put on display, together with her skeleton.
We thank President Nelson Mandela for demanding that her remains be brought back home so that she could be buried with dignity and find peace, which happened in 2002, which was 187 years after she was taken abroad.
We must tell all South African children such stories to make them stronger and appreciative of where we come from. We must not fool ourselves into believing that we have completely eradicated racism and prejudice in only 17 years of freedom.
We must continue working to build a truly non-racial and reconciled society, honestly and seriously, all of us.
Let us be vigilant and expose those who abuse children. Let us work with law enforcement agencies to prevent such occurrences by proactively reporting suspicious behaviour.
The police and the courts are empowered under the Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Offences Act and the Children’s Act to arrest, prosecute and convict perpetrators of violence against women and children.
The perpetrators must face the full might of the law.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has a specialised Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit, which ensures that dedicated investigators and other resources are assigned to cases where women and children are affected by violence.
The unit also assists in the preparation and support of witnesses during court procedures in conjunction with other relevant role players such as social workers, educators and victim-support organisations. Let us make use of these instruments, including Thuthuzela centres, to support children in distress.
Let me once again thank the NGOs that work closely with government in the campaign to fight child abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Let me invite all South Africans to be part of Child Protection Week in various ways. We must wear green ribbons throughout the week to demonstrate that we care about children.
We also make a call today, to all South Africans, to work with government to support and strengthen families in the country.
We must work together to eliminate all conditions eroding the family such as poverty and inequality, unemployment, diseases , gender inequality and gender-based violence, domestic violence and child abuse.
We must put the family at the centre of national policy discourse. We must look at how those policies will strengthen families and communities.
Stronger and cohesive families will mean a better life for children.
And the well being of children is our responsibility, all of us.
Let us protect children from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Let us protect children from racism and prejudice.
Let us build an environment in which children can thrive and prosper, and in which there is respect, love and tolerance.
Let us build a South Africa full of the laughter of children, and a future full of promise and hope for our children.
And we must do this together, because it takes a village to raise a child.
Umntwana wakho, ngumntwana wami. Your child is my child.
We look forward to a successful Child Protection Week!
I thank you.