Not too long ago, South Africans took to the polls to vote in the National Elections. Our country and citizens prides itself in being a free democratic nation where rights are a big part of our Constitution.

Children too have been prioritised in the pronouncement of children’s rights within the Bill of Rights that stipulate, “Every child has a right to basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services, as well as the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation.” (Section 28).

These laws imbibe the innate values that children are bestowed with. The nation also recently celebrated the 24th anniversary of democracy. However, can we as a nation celebrate the upholding of children’s rights within our country? This is a real issue that faces all communities. The media and courts alike are plagued with announcements of child abuse, rape and molestation of innocent children – often times at the hands of those who are close to them their friends and relatives.

A form of abuse that is often blurred as actually not being under the category of abuse is neglect. Neglecting a child, physically or emotionally is certainly a form of abuse. Working with children on a daily basis, I share their experiences of many not having parental support or supervision within the home. It is sad as to how many South African homes are headed by children. Or on the contrary, the elders (who are often sick, and too old to keep up with current educational trends) are left to take care of young children.

Biological parents are off to work at distant locations, neglecting their children in the process. Sending money home to their children and buying expensive gifts are not a substitute to parental involvement
and affectionate care. It is also interesting that domestic violence is also related to child abuse in a real and direct way.

Watching parents argue continuously can cause emotional discomfort and anxiety to children. When parents use inappropriate language in the presence of their child or even display acts of violence these cause long-term psychological harm.

Unfortunately, many homes are faced with the issues and parents are often so consumed in their own issues, that they neglect to understand the impact their display of violence, abusive language usage and neglect has on their children.

As a mother of two young girls, I am aware of the raising safety and security crisis within our community. However, nowadays even young boys are at risk to falling prey to kidnappers or being subjected to the hands of abusers. When will this carnage stop? The change has to happen now – as every individual takes a firm stand to become more aware of our roles.

These roles are clearly defined as parents, well-wishers, guardians, aunts or uncles and grandparents. Yes, indeed it does take a village to raise a child and therefore the onus rests on the entire community to say NO to child abuse and neglect.

Should you witness acts that can be defined as child abuse, the duty is upon you to make a difference. Remember that our children are innocent and know no better. They place their trust (completely) unto those that are close to them they do not have a voice of their own and those who do, can be easily overpowered by threats and accusations.

As adults we have a duty to fulfil, a duty to protect the children around us. Whether it is a child within our community or someone within the family circle it is our responsibility to amplify their voice and protect them against abuse.

Do not shy away from this responsibility, remember that at one stage you too were a child. Turn the tables around, should
you have fallen victim to abuse would you not have benefitted from the comfort of loving arms and protection. Therefore, act responsibility and together we can create a safe place for our children to grow
and enjoy their childhood days.