INVESTING in children to help ensure that their rights are realised and protected is important for the development of a nation, a senior representative of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) based in South Africa has said.
Aida Girma, addressing a recent Absa Foundation corporate social investment and responsibility open day , also officially confirmed Unicef as an additional nation-building partner in the trendsetting Absa and Sowetan Early Childhood Development (ECD) Awards.
The awards programme - driven by SABC Education, the Aggrey Klaaste Nation-Building Foundation, SA Congress for ECD, the Absa Foundation and the departments of basic education and social development - honour the best ECD practitioners, home and community-based ECD centres, resource and training organisations, ECD individual and groups implementing innovative ECD programmes or methods; and individuals and groups producing appropriate ECD publications.
This year's unsung ECD heroes will be honoured in Pretoria on December 3.
This is how Girma explained her assertion that investing in children is important for the development of a nation: "At Unicef, our core business is children.
"We believe that investing in children to help ensure that their rights are realised and protected is important for both the immediate and long-term development of a nation.
"This year the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified human rights instrument in the world."
Girma said that South Africa committed itself in 2001 - together with the rest of the world - to a World Fit for Children, which sets out a global agenda for action for children. "Nearly 10 years later we can proudly acknowledge the correlation between the progress made for children and the strategic shift in corporate social investment (CSI)," Girma said. "We know that many organisations, and even governments, remain dependent on CSI for the design and implementation of sustainable programmes for the survival, protection and development of children.
"We are happy to contribute this year to two new and very important categories, namely innovative early childhood development programmes and publications for young children.
"South Africa is rich with many innovative programmes that address the needs of infants and young children beyond the ECD centres.
"It is time that these inspiring programmes, many of which have their roots deeply entrenched within communities, are counted and acknowledged.
"The awards are an outstanding example of best practice in a multiple partnership and one that we feel can be proudly emulated by others here and around the world.
"Through such strategic alliances and partnerships, we can realign our priorities according to good sense and judgement, but most of all, according to good humanity," Girma said.