Child Protection Week: Working Together to Protect Children

The annual campaign aims to get all sectors of society involved in promoting the care and protection of children.

27 May - 2 June 2013: In 1997, the campaign to raise awareness on the rights of the child was commemorated in South Africa. The annual campaign aims to get all sectors of society involved in promoting the care and protection of children.

For many years past, it has been a kind of tradition to think of children as though they exist only in a futuristic manner or as though they only become valuable to the society after childhood. As such, it has become common to constantly describe children as ‘tomorrow’s leaders’, ‘the future of the nation’ and tomorrow’s ‘riches and prosperity’, among others. Consequently and indirectly, it would seem that children lost their ‘right to the present’ or ‘right to be valued in the present’ – except within the confines of a family environment where they are expected to prepare or be prepared for the future or for ‘real life’.

However, the universal acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (and the African regional Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child) represents a global consensus on matters concerning children by providing the world with shared norms, standards and values in relation to children and childhood. Thus, although children can generally not be protected in isolation from a family environment (the ideal is for children to be raised within a family environment), every individual member of society at large, has a role to play in ensuring the protection of children, at the very least, due to the particular vulnerability of children.

The role of the CRC, the African Children’s Charter and other international instruments relevant for children’s rights and welfare, is therefore to make children a subject of focus beyond the family or private sphere without attempting to usurp the role of the family in an ideal situation. They ensure this by establishing the recognition of children as ‘visible human beings’ fully entitled to rights so as to live lives of dignity and fulfilment in the here and now. The concept of children’s rights combines the idea of every individual being entitled to rights with the idea of children as individuals and therefore, equally deserving of rights. Consequently, public conscience should recognise and regard children as full members of society necessitating a change of attitude towards children generally; a shift in perspectives to children as subjects of rights and not merely objects of legal protection.

Since every individual is entitled to rights and protection, the focus of the CRC and the African Children’s Charter is the protection of children from any circumstance that has the potential of hindering or distorting their proper development into adulthood. This would be impossible to achieve if children remain ‘invisible’ or relegated to the background of society, given that they are doubly vulnerable due to their physical, mental, economic and other incapacities. This underscores the importance of all persons working together in their own little way to ensure that children are protected. Indeed, children represent the future however; investing into a bright future requires protecting children’s rights today, in the here and now. For this to happen, it is imperative for us all to work together to protect all children.

This is an article by Usang Maria Assim, researcher at the Community Law Centre’s Children’s Rights Project.

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