Join hands to protect children

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

If it takes a village to raise a child, it would take much more effort to protect a child. It is with this approach that the Lansdowne Children’s Forum wants to co-ordinate efforts to ensure the protection of one of society’s most vulnerable groups.

The forum aims to form safe zones for children, by creating partnerships with various organisations, government departments and businesses and, aptly, was launched on Thursday May 26, just ahead of Child Protection Week which started on Friday May 27.

Eric Ntabazalila, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), said: “South Africa has progressive child protection laws, policies and programmes preventing and addressing violence against children, but the scourge still remains a major challenge.”

Child Protection Week, which runs until Thursday June 2, is a campaign which, among others, aims to reduce the high levels of violence against children.

And it is because of this great need, that the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children started an educational and awareness programme about violence and abuse at schools.

Tatum Smith, one of the counsellors at the centre who runs this programme, said: “Violence is often ‘normalised’.

“Children adopt learned behaviour, and if the adults at home use violence to sort matters out, the children will believe that is the way to resolve things.

“In the programme, we look at what is considered abuse, and what might happen as a result of abuse, among others,” she said.

“We also give them the tools they need to help them, should they find themselves in an abusive or violent environment. Some children don’t even realise that bullying is wrong, and it is quite common. Bullying is the same as abuse. There is a big need when it comes to the protection of children. Our programme is beneficial to all children, however. It’s a preventative and early intervention programme. We need to do more on all levels – we cannot just work with the child. We must try to do more with families, because often things happen in the home,” Ms Smith said.

Val Diedricks, a representative of the City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate, who attended the Lansdowne Children’s Forum launch, echoed Ms Smith’s call for an integrated approach to ensuring child protection.

“I believe a parenting programme must run parallel with a children’s programme. We have seen the importance of this in our work. For example, our Matrix programme to assist drug addicts, also hosts workshops for parents to give them guidelines on how to cope with a drug-addicted child at home. We have now found, however, that people do not always want to come to us for workshops, so now we are taking the programme into communities,” Ms Diedricks said.

The forum is the brainchild of the Lansdowne Salvation Army. However, it is open to all denominations and organisations.

Captain Rob Wright, the pastor at the Salvation Army, said the idea behind the forum is to get the various organisations to work in synergy.

“A lot of us do something for the community, but this happens haphazardly, and sometimes, this leads to us enabling people, rather than helping them. As a church, we have been on this journey for a long time, where we try to help the vulnerable, and we welcome everyone. It’s just that we now need to co-ordinate our efforts,” Mr Wright said.

He added that the vision of the forum is to create safe zones for children, where positive character development takes place. The forum hopes to provide an aftercare service from Mondays to Fridays, where children would be able to participate in activities such as dance, music, homework assistance, and enjoy a healthy meal. With that, they also hope to get the different families’ support, by establishing relationships with the parents.

“Our challenge, however, is that we all have full-time jobs, and people will volunteer once a week, not five days a week. So for this reason, we have to raise funds to employ a co-ordinator, for resources, transport, and to provide meals for the children,” Mr Wright said.

Reverend Steven-John Bam from the Lansdowne Christian Ecumenical Forum said the establishment of a forum focusing on children’s protection is a step in the right direction.

“When different organisations do their individual projects, one sometimes find the same child getting duplicate donations. By forming partnerships, however, we can reach more children, as we not only want to help that child over a short-term.

“We want to move away from hand-outs and try to make an impact that’s sustainable,” he said.

Speaking at the meeting, Brenda James, who works at Little Paradise crèche at the Flamingo Crescent informal settlement, said the biggest challenge they face in trying to eradicate social ills, is to work with the parents.

“Some parents just refuse flat out to work with us. Some of them are substance abusers and it makes it even more difficult. We can’t even call them to parent meetings.” Ms James said.

Linda Walters, from Connect Network, a collaborative network of non-profit organisations and churches working together with women and children at risk in South Africa, encouraged those present to continue doing their bit for child protection.

“Nothing we do will be lost. We will continue to create awareness and make a difference, so that we can break this cycle of poverty and abuse,” she added.

Ms Walters also introduced a fundraising initiative for the forum – in the form of a cook book. Ms Walters explained that their Lansdowne community cook book would involve residents sending in their “tried and tested” recipes, as well as a photograph of themselves, and pay a R150 for every recipe they would like published. It is hoped that the cook book will then be on sale from November.

* Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate deployed 14 social workers, to address social ills in 17 hotspot areas identified across the city.

In a media release about this, the City explained that the work of these social workers will focus specifically on the factors that result in people migrating to the streets. This includes truancy, substance abuse and domestic violence.

“Tackling the repair of our social fabric is a thankless task, because there are no instant results. But I am confident that the interventions we have implemented will have the desired results in years to come,” said Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development.

The social workers will work in Athlone, Lansdowne, Grassy Park, Cape Town, Sea Point, Green Point, Durbanville, Wynberg, Somerset West, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Mitchell’s Plain, Goodwood, Bellville, Parow, Ottery, Kuils River, Diep River and Table View. These areas were determined based on the City’s street people enumeration conducted in 2014/15.

The social workers are deployed at the various Social Development district offices in the identified areas and will work closely with the officials to complement the directorate’s existing interventions and programmes.

Contact Mr Wright at 021 761 1491.