In celebrating National Child Protection Week from 31 May to 7 June 2020, the main focus for the year is on protecting children throughout Covid-19 and beyond. The safeguarding of the children in South Africa has long been a pressing matter, but now, the urgency and attention needed is greater than ever.
The Drakenstein Child Protection Steering Group, coordinated by Ezrah Community Training and Development NPC in partnership with Valcare, has been successfully collaborating on child protection programmes for the last three years. The group is guided by the Children’s Act that encourages the ‘best interest of the child’, as they work to facilitate support, protection and justice for the children in the Cape Winelands.
Social contact with children and their caretakers are usually at the core of child protection, but due to the lockdown and schools closing temporarily, nonprofits have been challenged to be innovative in their approach to continue to support the children in their networks.
“Every child has potential and all children deserve our best care and protection, especially during this unusual period. The feedback given by steering group delegates, working at ground-level in the community, is an essential part of informing our service delivery. As part of the Drakenstein Child Protection Programme, we work together to address the needs of children and to implement a variety of child-focused services in new ways. It is rewarding to see that it is really making a difference,” says Mariëtte Jacobs, MD of Ezrah Community Training and Development NPC and Coordinator of the Drakenstein Child Protection Programme.
The nonprofit organisations that form the core of the Drakenstein Child Protection Steering Group for 2020 include: Ezrah Community Training and Development NPC, Valcare, Khula Development Group, Kin Culture, Paarl Youth Initiative, Salt and Light Kids, Ma’s vir Wellington, Ikhaya le Themba and Good Hope Psychological Service. Together with other child-focused organisations and designated child protection organisations, child protection gaps are identified and addressed.
Drakenstein Child Protection Programme for Covid-19 and beyond:
- Child protection training and mentoring
Ezrah facilitates several workshops throughout the year to equip leaders of child-focused organisations within the Cape Winelands with child protection-, child participation- and parent mentoring skills. Through community information sessions, organisations such as A21 and the National Prosecuting Authority help us to equip the wider community on how to report child sexual abuse, child trafficking and child exploitation.
- Sharing child protection resources
Our steering group members not only wear their green ribbons proudly, but also encourage others to do the same. They share important child protection resources through their social media campaigns and raise awareness through radio interviews. The steering group further collaborates with Cause for Justice to educate parents, educators, schools and caregivers about the potential harms of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). We also support the Centre Against Sexual Exploitation (South Africa) in sharing their resources that help to protect children against the devastating effects of pornography.
- Distributing of food during Covid-19
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Salt and Light Kids, Ikhaya le Themba, Ma’s vir Wellington, Khula Development Group and others assist with food distribution to vulnerable communities and especially children in collaboration with Valcare. All these initiatives are done within strict Covid-19 health and safety regulations, while points of contact are also used to teach children about personal hygiene.
- Celebrating World Foster Day
Kin Culture not only provides support to foster families, but also hosts the World Foster Day campaign on the 31st of May to create awareness for foster and safety care. This campaign is gaining great momentum every year.
- Providing educational and spiritual support
Khula Development Group, Paarl Youth Initiative, Salt and Light Kids, Ma’s vir Wellington and Ikhaya le Themba support children through different outreaches. Initiatives include providing children with stationary, educational material, Bible lessons as well as doing safety and educational check-ins with children and parents, adhering to all necessary health and safety guidelines. Khula Development Group also developed an interactive board game to promote child protection, child safety and education in line with the theme of child protection week.
- Providing psycho-social support
Currently, we are piloting a project with Good Hope Psychological Service and Sp(i)eel Arts Therapies Collective to equip our steering group delegates with important psycho-social support skills through short Zoom workshops. In turn, these leaders will equip their teams to build resilience in the community through the creative arts. Through strengths-based storytelling, providing basic crisis support and doing referrals, we can collectively strengthen the well-being of our families and children.
- Reporting child abuse
We aim to lead from the front by reporting child abuse, neglect and exploitation and to equip community members to do the same. After reporting, we collaborate with designated child protection organisations to ensure that children in need get the necessary assistance. Apart from developing child protection protocols to guide our work, we also write recommendation reports such as our recent report on child trafficking. These protocols and recommendation reports are freely shared with other child protection stakeholders such as the National Freedom Network and the National Department of Social Development.
- Promoting child participation
Children can be constructive leaders of change and their voices should be heard. Therefore, we encourage our organisations to intentionally create platforms for child participation through our LEAD model. Paarl Youth Initiative and Khula Development Group have already implemented excellent child participation projects and we are looking forward to see many more of these projects by others in the year to come.
“We believe that collaboration is key in providing protection and support services to children. We therefore salute all the organisations and individuals, who are part of the Drakenstein Child Protection Programme and honour them for the work that they do in service of the children in the Cape Winelands. Together we can do more to create a society where children are protected and can grow today as leaders of tomorrow,” says Jolanda van der Lingen, Relationship Manager of Valcare.