Every Conversation Matters: Advocating for Child Safety this Child Protection Week

Every Conversation Matters: Advocating for Child Safety this Child Protection Week
Susan Abro of Susan Abro Attorney. Photo credit: Jacky Herbst

The theme of this year’s National Child Protection Week is: “Every conversation matters, every child in every community needs a fair go,” which highlights the importance of dialogue and action in safeguarding our children.

Susan Abro, of Susan Abro Attorney, a respected advocate for women and children’s rights, emphasises the critical need to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. “Child Protection Week serves as a crucial reminder that every child deserves to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. Our collective efforts can make a significant difference in preventing abuse, exploitation, and neglect,” says Abro.

The primary aim of Child Protection Week is to raise awareness about the need to shield children from all forms of violence. This includes physical abuse, sexual exploitation, emotional neglect, and any other harm that undermines their well-being.

The findings from the Optimus Study SA highlight the severity of the issue. Conducted with 9,717 adolescents aged 15 to 17, the study reveals alarming statistics:

  • 36.8% of boys and 33.9% of girls reported experiencing some form of sexual abuse.
  • 40% of these cases occurred more than once, with 1 in 10 children experiencing abuse by a known adult four or more times.

“These statistics are a harsh reality check of the prevalent nature of child sexual abuse in our country. It is imperative that we act decisively to protect our children and support survivors. Every day should be child protection day. Children should be seen and heard, and their safety must be our top priority,” says Abro.

Child Protection Week calls on everyone to participate actively in preventing child abuse. This includes mandatory reporting by teachers, therapists, and other authorities when abuse is suspected. In cases of sexual abuse, it is essential to lay charges with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and ensure that the child is examined by a District surgeon.

Abro also addresses the complexity of child abuse cases, particularly in the context of civil disputes. “It is concerning that some parents may falsely accuse the other parent of sexual abuse during custody battles. Such actions not only harm the accused but also divert attention from genuine cases of abuse and exploitation. The courts take these allegations very seriously, and false accusations can lead to severe legal consequences,” she notes.

Child abuse investigations often involve social workers who conduct thorough interviews with the entire family, including grandparents. This comprehensive approach is essential in breaking the cycle of abuse and ensuring that children are protected.

“It is within our power to stop the cycle of abuse, neglect, violence, and exploitation. By working together and maintaining vigilance, we can create a safer environment for all children,” says Abro.

To show solidarity with children and support Child Protection Week, Susan Abro encourages everyone to wear green ribbons. “The colour green symbolises growth and hope. By wearing a green ribbon, we stand together in our commitment to protect and nurture every child in our community.”