Let's strive to make child protection a year-long effort

One in three children under the age of 18 is a victim of sexual violence and physical abuse, a survey has found.
One in three children under the age of 18 is a victim of sexual violence and physical abuse, a survey has found.
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Each year, government and organisations around the country gear up to mark National Child Protection Week with campaigns and programmes designed to raise awareness about children's rights, their safety and security.

It is a week aimed at mobilising all sectors of South African society to care for and protect children. But with abuse statistics on the rise, child protection should be an ongoing effort.

The SA Child Gauge 2017 survey by the University of Cape Town children's institute reported some shocking statistics: one in three children under the age of 18 is a victim of sexual violence and physical abuse.

Twelve percent of children live below the international ultra-poverty line, which equates to less than R17,50 a day. Violence against children cost SA an estimated R239bn - or 6% of gross domestic product - in 2015.

And last year, parliament heard from police minister Bheki Cele that in the past three financial years 99% of children in SA experienced or witnessed violence.

About 2,600 children were murdered, which is 5% of the total number of murders across SA.

Forty-one percent of all reported rape cases have been of children and the number of child rapes continues to increase.

Child Protection Week is a great start as we move into June. Celebrated annually as Youth Month; in June we take the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of the youth of the past and take stock of the struggles, challenges and achievements of young people of today.

At Afrika Tikkun, we believe that it is important that the voices of the most vulnerable are empowered to break the silence around child abuse.

Young people need to understand that they can and should hold their guardians accountable for safeguarding their rights, but to do so they need to have the faith that adults will listen to them, believe them and pursue justice for them in a way that protects their dignity and interests.

As adults we need to acknowledge that we have a responsibility to protect children from harm and we should encourage them to speak out.

To this end, we are investing a great deal in changing the perceptions towards the protection of children.

For Afrika Tikkun, youth are at the core of everything we do. Our developmental work is geared towards enhancing the wellbeing, empowerment and protection of the youth.

We believe it is possible to end child poverty and its outcome. Of course, child protection plays a crucial role within these parameters.

Our ongoing efforts are intended to strengthen the capacity of children to speak out against abuse and to empower families and communities to care for and protect their children.

Empowerment guides youth in developing a wholesome outlook on life and encourages their personal development.

Through our empowerment programme we aim to provide an environment for all these positives to be a possibility. We help mould children and youth who can contribute to nation-building.

As society at large, we must work together to shape the leaders of tomorrow. Failure to do so could cripple our country's economic growth, intensify unemployment, poverty and crime.

*Nwaneri is head of partnerships and marketing at Afrika Tikkun.

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