Pretoria – Government, led by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, will today launch Child Protection Week in Langa, Cape Town.
As the custodians of the Children’s Act, the Department of Social Development said the annual campaign will this year be launched under the theme, ‘Let us all Protect Children to Move South Africa Forward’.
The launch, which will be held at Langa High School Sports Grounds, seeks to raise awareness and educate society about the rights and responsibilities of children.
South Africans are encouraged to report child abuse to the 24-hour Gender Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428 or *120*7867#.
“South African children experience and witness multiple forms of violence in the home, family, community and school, usually at the hands of someone they know.
“Violence affects children of all ages. Children under the age of five are most likely to be abused and killed in their homes, while teenage boys are at increased risk of being killed in the context of male-on-male interpersonal violence,” said the Department of Social Development.
One in three children are victims of sexual violence and physical abuse before they reach the age of 18, while about 12% of children report neglect and approximately 16% report emotional abuse.
In the period of 2013/14, the department said about 18 524 (29%) of sexual offences reported to the police were children under the age of 18 years, equating to 51 cases a day.
“The crime statistics do not give child-specific information every year. The 2013/14 report is the latest information,” said the department.
It said the rape and murder of children is not an unusual event, as one case is reported every third day.
“These shocking statistics are the reality of many South African children and government is doing all it can to make sure that children are safe, especially in the home where parents and loved ones are expected to be their primary caregivers.
“Government has, through the Children’s Act, availed services to make sure that every child receives care and protection,” said the department.
Educational puppet show teaches children about their rights
On the backdrop of Child Protection Month, the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison in the Northern Cape has brought to life a puppet show to pre-schoolers about children’s rights.
The provincial department said the initiative, hosted recently in Hartswater by the department and its stakeholders, is one of the ways to make children aware of their rights and issues of safety.
The puppet show, the department said, is a way to ensure messages reach children in a way that is easy for them to understand.
The department said it wants children to know and understand their body parts, and to know what is appropriate and what is not.
It said children need to know they can tell their parents, guardians or teachers if someone is touching them inappropriately or saying inappropriate things to them.
The department’s Acting Regional Manager for the Frances Baard District, Greg Jammer, said the department wants to caution parents and guardians to be observant to changing behaviour or patterns in their children.
“If a vibrant and outspoken child suddenly behaves differently, that is a red flag to pay attention and calmly ask questions and also to be observant of signs of child abuse.
“Parents need to keep tabs of their children’s whereabouts and keep a close eye on them,” said Jammer.
Speaking to the children during the puppet show on Friday, Sergeant Tumelo Sebuasengwe from the Hartswater Police Station, cautioned them to avoid walking alone or accepting lifts or sweets from strangers and to always play close to home and in groups if possible.
Sebuasengwe pleaded with parents not to wait long periods to report missing children, as they could be gone too far by then.
“If you have looked everywhere and ran out of places to look and still have not found your child, immediately seek help at your nearest police station,” he said.