“Everybody has a hand in child protection,” said Lorraine Moko, a social worker and panelist at a press briefing held by Connect Network at Cape Town’sV&A Waterfront on 7 June, 2019.
Connect Network, an organisation representing 96 NGOs focused on child well-being in South Africa, described the protection of SA children as “bleak”.
The briefing was held against the backdrop of Child Protection Week from 2-9 June. This year’s theme was “Let us Protect All Children to Move South Africa Forward”.
Before the panel discussion, Dee Moskoff, the executive director of Connect Network, read aloud the joint press release with Bayakhanya Foundation, outlining the plight of children in South Africa.
“The 19.6 million children in South Africa depend on others…for care and protection,” said Moskoff.
The organisation highlighted education, family permanency and safety as three issues of concern.
Moskoff said that “63% of children in South Africa do not have access to Early Childhood Development. Eighty percent of children in Grade 4 in South Africa cannot read.”
She stated that about 3,500 babies are abandoned each year in South Africa and roughly 3.5 million children are orphans.
“We are facing a generation of bullies and abusers,” said Moussa Mulambo, director of advocacy for Connect Network, during the panel discussion.
“We cannot stop abuse from happening, but communities need to be aware and take action [against it].”
The organisation also welcomed the Western Cape Commissioner for Children Act which will allow for the appointment of a Commissioner for Children in the Western Cape.
During the panel discussion, Debbie Wybrow, a family lawyer and founder of Bayakhanya Foundation called the Act an “incredible piece of legislation”.
“The commissioner will have the right to call for an investigation, or insist that documents be produced and strongly encourage other provincial stakeholders and members of government to work together,” said Wybrow.
Despite these inroads, Moko said there are too few social workers employed by NGOs although they are in a prime position to deal with fresh cases.
“There are about 213,000 NGOs…many work in communities and have their eyes and ears on the ground.”
She said most child abuse cases are dealt with by the Department of Social Development (DSD).
“The system is overwhelmed,” said Moko.
She said it takes too long for the DSD to deal with cases, to the extent that a child may have turned 18 by the time their issue is addressed.
The organisation also called for the recent Child Amendment Bill to be redrawn as it does not effectively protect vulnerable children.
According to the press release, the Act fails to adequately address a number of issues including the protection of differently-abled children, foreign nationals, parents who experience “crisis-pregnancies” (due to rape or other circumstances) and subsequent child abandonment, as well as provisions for foster care and adoption.
For Wybrow, South Africa needs to look less at Eurocentric models for legislation for child protection.
“It needs to be based on policy and research from Africa,” she emphasised.
Moskoff echoed this sentiment.
“We [Connect Network] are advocating for a Pan-African Child Protection Movement,” she said. DM