Our work in South Africa
In South Africa violence, poverty, death and illness are still, unfortunately, widespread. Here the most vulnerable in society are most at risk. Following considerable research and innumerable visits to South Africa since 2004, and against the background and history of violence and tensions in townships and the rural areas, and the migration of peoples from other African countries, we now have tried and tested programmes with our partners to ensure your donations are spent in a way that really helps children and enables sustainable change in communities.
WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON?
The abuse of small children is a horrendous act and although it happens to a greater or lesser degree in all countries of the world, it is without any doubt happening in huge numbers in South Africa. Whilst there is little statistical data available there is much empirical evidence that informs the situation. In late 2008 current experts tell us:
- There are multiple reason for abuse including violence, poverty, migration, unemployment, illness [and death] and men losing a sense of place, of respect and the value of their role.
- All the issues have to be tackled somehow together – single issue focus [i.e. HIV/AIDs] isn’t going to solve things
- This is not a race issue – children of wealthy families are abused as well as those from the lowest socio-economic groups. As numbers of black South Africans get wealthier so the numbers of abused children from ‘good’ homes is rising. Conversely as the numbers of white South Africans living in poverty increases, so the numbers of white children being abused rises. The smaller ethnic groups tend to keep their matters ‘in house’ and therefore there are very few figures from the Asian sub-continent groups, the Jewish, Russian or Chinese groups.
- The role of the traditional healer / tribal leader is very influential in the rural areas and, where destructive and malevolent, isn’t being nullified; where benign and positive they aren’t being sought out and supported
- There is no solid believable up-to-date research data on what abuse occurs against children under 12 years, or why it happens.
- There are no substantive statistics on abuse of pre-school children so the only figures we have are those of children taken to a trauma unit or a crisis centre – these figures indicate one child under 16 yrs of age is raped every 3½ minutes [approx 162,000 pa]; what incidents never come to the attention of anyone?
- Two leading South African experts take the view, from other studies, that as many as three children in five will be abused no matter race, creed or colour.
- When a child is abused and taken to a police station, even if the incident is recorded their age is not recorded [unbelievable but true] so no reliable data comes from the police
- Many children are further traumatised by the police or other statutory authorities thus dissuading others from reporting abuse to the police
- A decree has been issued by the Government that levels of crime must be reduced by 2010. Consequently many police now discourage children and families from making a formal complaint of abuse; the argument goes - nothing will happen so why go to all the trouble and upset of pursuing it? Anecdotally this is resulting in a major fall in victims/families going to the police
- 21.9% of all children less than 5yrs are malnourished, 5% of children suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome; therefore nearly 30% of all children are cognitively impaired by the time they get to school.
- An important part of ensuring that children are kept safe from harm and abuse is to release Mothers from the history of their own trauma – remembering that in many of the very poor communities all women and girls expect to be seriously sexually assaulted at one time or another.
- The incidence of incest and the abuse of very young children is rising: 47% of all reported assaults are towards children 6 years or younger
- The HIV/AIDs crisis has almost certainly diverted resources of manpower and money from children’s services
- Whilst men cause most of the direct problems they are also, in the end, a crucial part of the solution; to be of any value programmes must also get access to young men and boys.
Despite all this what, if anything, is known to work? It’s simple really – start at A…..
A. Community awareness, intervention and prevention including work with mothers, families and men’s groups [difficult]. This can be undertaken by volunteers, or employed staff, trained in holistic child, family and counselling based skills - see 1 and 2 above – alongside knowledge of illness, parenting and recognising and dealing with abuse.
B. Early prevention and recognition through community volunteers and the training of staff/volunteers in Early Childhood Development Centres [these are critical to reduce the risk]
Then, the other main helping factors…
C. Services for survivors
D. Re-integration of survivors and perpetrators
In the light of all this we fund projects as close to where the abuse is happening as possible, and only through viable and recognised organisations where the chances of additional abuse are minimised and where we can work with the organisations to expand and improve services for children leaving a sustainable service. We strongly believe that if you help women and communities gain knowledge and skills this will help them into paid work, it will assist in their individual and collective futures and help the mothers of the future to protect their own children.
The empowerment and ability of women to be economically self-sufficient is crucial, but so is protecting small children from abuse and also trying to break the cycle for young boys and girls who may already have been abused and looking at a future where they become the abusers – in fact trying to change their future path and promote a different future may be one of the most important things we could do… as with the Ghetto Boyz.
So, we focus on:
Working with pre-schools to
- train the women to recognise and act on suspicions of abuse;
- to provide a safe place for children
- to provide a place of skills and knowledge for people in the communities.
The empowerment of women and men, working in community services, through training and awareness programmes.
Diversion programmes for vulnerable or potentially violent young men and/or young women, we:
- encourage and promote a different pattern to their lives through development programmes using a hook like football
- work with children whose lives are disrupted by poverty, abuse, malnutrition, illness or abandonment.
In this we work with partners to provide funds for:
- Training / diversion / development programmes
- Supporting Safe Havens and outreach work
- Research & community awareness programmes
Our overwhelming aim, always, is to help break the cycle of abuse.
the infant trust