Where is caring government as women with kids beg in streets?

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
Mothers begging on the roadside with children is a common sight in SA towns, leaving one wondering if the state is doing enough to alleviate the plight of the destitutes, says the writer. /ESA ALEXANDER
Mothers begging on the roadside with children is a common sight in SA towns, leaving one wondering if the state is doing enough to alleviate the plight of the destitutes, says the writer. /ESA ALEXANDER

Easter, for many of us, represents a season of goodwill. I thought it would be prudent to reflect on the disproportionate burden that society places on women.

Women with children begging on the roadside are an ethical dilemma and a sight that evokes agonising emotions for those with a conscience.

At the same time, there are those who choose to openly express contempt "for mothers who abuse their children by using them to solicit sympathy and attention from motorists".

An occasional unflattering comment comes from an irate taxi passenger when it stops next to a blind woman holding an empty can towards an open window with one raised hand, while being led by a child by the other hand.

This image replicates itself in large cities in SA. Some of these women are blind, but the majority are able-bodied.

A snap poll published a while back by local daily newspaper, showed that most of the women are from Zimbabwe.

A Zimbabwean official was quoted saying he wasn't aware of that fact. If this is true, it clearly means therefore these destitute Zimbabwean women and their children are on their own.

SA officials, on the other hand, are confronted with the issue of the law pertaining to child abuse, the use of a child to beg on the street.

People go on to ask the question: "Why are these women allowed to abuse children by subjecting them to scorching sun in summer and cold weather in winter?" No official response has been forthcoming.

Nobody wants to take responsibility. Often, these women and children have no access to food and water and are simply at the mercy of passing motorists to give them something to eat.

In terms of our constitution, all children of school-going age need to be in class, and all poor children have a right to nutrition and shelter, and shouldn't be begging on street corners to survive.

Social workers who don't want to take responsibility say the children are better off with their mothers, which actually means that "they are better off starving next to their mothers".

Maybe the social workers know that this problem is a huge challenge that they are not ready to tackle because they don't have the capacity.

It is on record that SA has a shortage of social workers and has a high number of abandoned babies, which may mean that the women begging with children on street corners, are not a priority, at least for now.

But my question is: "Are these women and their children people of a lesser God?" These women are criticised for having babies and are vilified for begging with their children.

They are damned if they try to survive and damned if they don't. However, nobody seems to ever ask of the whereabouts of the fathers of the children while the women are humiliated by the roadside?

It is, again, the woman who has to bear the brunt of society's contempt for trying to survive under difficult circumstances.

These women must be supported for not turning their backs on their children and abandoning them. They need our support and prayers.

Society can't just be indifferent to the plight of female street beggars who have a child or two next to them.

We need to put pressure on the authorities to help find shelter and nutrition for them. Rather than throw them a snide remark about the absent father, throw in a R5 coin or give them food parcels and clothing to help them. Your duty is not to condemn them; it is to help them and alleviate their plight.

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