DURBAN - Girls and Boys Town South Africa is urging all South Africans to do better and help create a society in which children have safer spaces and are allowed to live lives that nurture their potential from birth.
As the country commemorates Child Protection Week, GBTSA said the event is an annual jolt to the apathy often felt about the plight of the vulnerable.
"It is difficult to care about something that feels distanced from oneself. However, the failure to take care of our children shows a detachment from reality and ultimately projects a societal comfort and coexistence with violence and abuse," GBTSA said.
According to a University of Cape Town report, children made up 35% of the South African population in mid-2018.
"As small as it seems, it is within this demographic that the greatest inhumanity is evident," GBTSA said.
A 2020 report from Stats SA suggests that 60% of children are multidimensionally poor.
The 2016 Optimus Foundation study conducted among 15 -17-year-olds revealed that 40% of these young people had experienced neglect and abuse of various types at some point in their lives.
"It is cliché to say that children are the future, but if this is their present, what does the future hold for them? Finding the answer may not be as difficult if one considers that we are presently living with the children who were touted to be the future a couple of decades ago.
Our present society is characterised by distrust and the rise in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression among youth is partly due to the violence that plagues children as they grow and try to play in the background," GBTSA said.
In the 63 years since Girls and Boys Town South Africa was established, the children that have walked through their doors have often left their circumstances in shock with the trauma they have experienced.
"Some of our children started their lives out in a plastic bag left in a public space with the parent never returning or were saved from the abusive clutches of elders entrusted with their care. In an effort to help them, the child-care system often shuffles them three to four times before they find a ‘forever’ home.
“In this period, their perception of the world eventually evolves into mistrust, and they carry with them a sadness that is usually impossible to articulate but involuntarily shows in other ways," GBTSA said.
GBTSA said if everyone did their part to create a safe space for children, it could lead to a country where empowered children are indeed the future.