LAUNCH OF CHILD PROTECTION WEEK 2024: ADDRESSING CHALLENGES AND HONOURING LEGACIES

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By Precious Mupenzi

  • At the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre, Minister Lindiwe Zulu launched Child Protection Week 2024, reflecting on South Africa’s 30 years of democracy and honouring the contributions of anti-apartheid activists Mittah Seperepere and Francis Baard.
  • Despite its proud legacy, the district faces significant challenges, including rising mental health issues among children, high teenage pregnancy rates, and violence. In the 2023/2024 third quarter, the Northern Cape recorded 2,655 births among 15-19-year-olds and 2,267 mental health visits, highlighting the critical need for child protection and support.
  • Minister Zulu emphasised the importance of a unified approach to child protection, recognizing partnerships with organisations like UNICEF, the Department of Justice, and the South African Police Services. She urged parents to be vigilant and involved, advocating for preventive measures to address teenage pregnancy and other issues affecting children.

Today marks the launch of Child Protection Week 2024 at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre, a venue named after the esteemed anti-apartheid activist and welfare officer, Mittah Seperepere. It is fitting that this significant event is held here as South Africa celebrates 30 years of democracy. This occasion not only honours Seperepere’s relentless fight against apartheid but also reflects on the strides made in South Africa’s democratic journey within the context of child protection.

During her remarks at the launch, the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, highlighted the significance of this day, as it marks the 30th anniversary of democracy in South Africa. She also honoured the substantial contributions of Mittah Seperepere and Francis Baard to the democratic movement, emphasising their enduring legacy in the fight for freedom and equality.

Despite the Francis Baard District being home to legendary figures like Mittah Seperepere and Francis Baard, the legacy of these icons is overshadowed by the plight of its children. The district faces significant challenges, including rising mental health issues among children, high rates of teenage pregnancy, violence, and harmful cultural practices. These issues hinder the progress and well-being of the younger generation, casting a shadow over the proud legacy of the district’s notable figures

A sobering statistics from the 2023/2024 3rd quarter report by the Department of Health demand our attention. The report reveals that among 15-19 year-olds, there were 91,245 registered births nationwide, with 2,655 of these births occurring in the Northern Cape. Additionally, the Northern Cape recorded 2,267 mental health visits, underscoring the critical need for child protection and mental health support in our communities.

Minister Zulu expressed profound concern about the rising number of teenage pregnancies, urging young girls and boys to take better care of themselves.

“We are deeply troubled by the alarming rates of teenage pregnancies across the country, particularly here in the Northern Cape, with John Taolo Gaetsewe and Francis Baard districts being the most affected in the province. We must act now to stop this trend. While we encourage young mothers and fathers to stay in school and complete their studies, our primary goal must be to prevent teenage pregnancy in the first place,” said Minister Zulu.

The minister emphasised the critical role of child protection, highlighting the need for a collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders. She acknowledged the valuable partnership between the department and stakeholders such as UNICEF, the Department of Justice, the South African Police Services, and various civil society organisations.

“We salute all our partner organizations that work tirelessly in communities across our country to strengthen the child protection system, ensuring our children are safe, happy, and healthy,” Minister Zulu said.

Minister Zulu also underscored the essential role parents play in safeguarding their children’s futures. She called on parents to be vigilant and actively involved in their children’s lives, providing guidance and support to help them make informed decisions and avoid the pitfalls of early parenthood.

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