Children in South Africa have been afforded outstanding Constitutional, legislative and institutional provisions for their survival, development, protection and participation. As a result, there is growing evidence that progressive gains are being made in the quality of their everyday lives. This fact has been affirmed during the recent consultation processes that was conducted country wide in preparation of South Africa's Periodic Reports that is due to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Union Expert Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). South Africa ratified the UNCRC on the 16 June 1995 and the ACRWC on 7 January 2000.
But, the national consultations also indicated that there remains enormous challenges and extensive dedicated work that is still required to ensure that all South Africa's children have a healthy start, achieve their full potential, are protected from all forms of harm, grow up in family environments that are supportive to their developmental needs and that they participate actively in matters that affects them. So, the emphasis is on their well being and happiness every day - while recognising the enormous broader development benefits that accrues to our nation if substantive economic investments are made now.
The report focuses on areas of emphasis specified in the UN and AU reporting guidelines. Both reports will be submitted for consideration to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Expert Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child by July 2013.
The consultation process on the reports included a two phased process. During the first, February to June 2012, government departments responded to the specific questions in the formal guidelines provided by the UN and the AU. The questions in the guidelines are formatted in such a way that governments must respond directly to the questions in relation to the progress made since the last report. Accordingly, government departments were requested to report on the following areas:
- General measures of implementation.
- Definition of a child.
- General principles relating to the rights of the child.
- Civil rights and freedoms.
- Family environment.
- Basic health and welfare
- Education, Sport, leisure and cultural activities.
- Special protection measures in the state of emergency; conflict with the law, situations of exploitation, minority groups.
In addition, the ACRWC requires special focus on the following areas:
- Responsibilities of the Child - Art 31 e.g. Child's duty towards their families, communities and country.
- Harmful social and cultural practices Art.21 (child marriage)
- Children of imprisoned mothers -Art 30
- Children who need special protection on account of being in risky or vulnerable conditions (children in street/orphaned & vulnerable)
The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) collated the reports from government departments and other relevant government documents into one discussion document. This document formed the basis for the second phase of the consultation which involved interactions and consultations with government departments and civil society organisations in the nine provinces.
The provincial consultations were hosted during July to September 2012 by the Offices of the Premiers or the Offices that are responsible for coordinating the children's sector in the respective provinces. Provincial government departments, municipalities and nongovernmental organisations participated in the consultations. The final report is the outcome of this consultation process. The views of children were heard during the National Children's Parliament. The Nelson Mandela Children's Parliament is an annual event in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and a host province. This year, the sitting was on the 14th of July 2012, at the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature in Nelspruit.
During October and November, the DWCPD presented the report to the national government departments and the following Governance Clusters: International Cooperation Governance and Administration Social cluster Justice, Crime and Security.
Cabinet approved the release of the report to Parliament and the general public on 5 December 2012. Parliament will now consider the report and provide feedback to the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities by 31 March 2013.
The public, including children, parents and nongovernmental organizations are invited to comment on the report and to submit written responses to the Minister of DWCPD by 31 March 2013.