Department of Social Work and Criminology participates in Child Protection Week 2013

Posted on June 04, 2013

“And all this take place despite South Africa’s advanced Constitution which protects children’s rights, the government’s ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child as well as South Africa being signatory to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child,” said Prof Antoinette Lombard, Head of the Department of Social Work and Criminology. She spoke during Child Protection Week 2013.

Social work students from the department participated with the SAVF in Child Protection Week by reaching about 8 000 learners at nine different schools. Learners participated in writing poems and making posters about their own protection and safety and also participated in a march to raise awareness of child protection and their own safety. This year, the theme of the week was: ‘Working together to protect our children’. Prof Lombard said it is a call to parents and caregivers, supported by non-government organisations, faith based-organisations, the private sector, academics, and broader civil society, to share the task to prevent the abuse of and injustices to children and to provide them with the safety and security that will allow them to develop to their fullest potential.

She said the Department of Social Work and Criminology recognises all the good work done by civil citizens, NGOs, CBOs, government and many other role players to protect children.

“However, too many children remain excluded and live on the margins of survival and exploitation.

“Children have the right to be protected against any form of harm; the right to shelter, food, safety, education, health services and in particular the right to participate in matters which concern them.

“Adults should change their views of a child as being ‘seen and not heard’. Children should not be seen as passive bystanders but as active participants in all dimensions of their lives,” she argued. “They are not only the future, they are citizens today and hence their voices should be heard today. Children have shown over the years that they can make significant contributions to their own plight if they have the opportunity to speak out and listened to.

“However, children should not be asked what their views are on matters that concern them just so that we can claim that they have been consulted but when it comes to implementation or action, their views are ignored. This too, is exploitation and disregard of their right to opportunities for participation and having a voice. We should not pride ourselves as a society listening to children but then silence their voice by not acting on their views. We should never forget the role that children played in changing the unjust history of South Africa. Their role in a democratic society should be respected – including vulnerable and orphaned children and their choices and wishes for their protection, survival and having a future.”

According to Lombard, the challenge is to reach out to children from an early age as active partners in their own development. Children should grow up knowing that they are treasured and important. We need to build a society where children believe in themselves, they should grow up with hope and a future.

The inclusion of children lies at the heart of social, economic and environmental justice, and social workers play an important role in facilitating this inclusion to ensure sustainable development in the interests of current and future generations, she said.

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