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Infant Protection Day and children in SA

by Zahid Jadwat

Annually, the world observes Infant Protection Day on November 7. The aim of the day is to create awareness about what can be done to protect infants from abuse and other threats to their lives.

Infant protection is meant to safeguard infants from abuse, neglect and maltreatment. Good care and nurturing in their early years is critical for their wellbeing and development in life.

In an interview on Salaamedia, Marumo Sekgobela from Save The Children SA, said it was the duty of communities to protect infants. His organisation, he said, works with governmental departments to identify and assist in danger.

“We work with different stakeholders; we work with all government stakeholders. The Department of Social Development is our key stakeholder, Department of Basic Education, Department of Justice – we work with all as well as other civil society actors in the lives of children,” he said.

Sekgobela said this cooperation was important to be able to save the lives of many children.

He said: “When we see things that are going wrong in the lives of children within communities, we’re able to pick them up and refer them to the relevant authorities or departments that will bring help and at the end of the day our children’s lives are saved.”


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Sekgobela stressed the need for communities to play their part in ensuring infant protection. He said communities were key stakeholders when it came to identifying infants and children who were being ill-treated.

“The perception of the children begins at communities,” he said, “where the children live. We work with all other relevant community structures, whether in the form of religious structures or in the form of traditional structures or just community-based organisations such that we raise awareness particularly around the issues of the rights of children.”

He said some of the basic rights every infant was afforded at birth included the rights to life, food and protection. Save The Children SA worked with communities to equip them to raise infants well.

He said: “The importance of community members cannot be over- emphasised in protecting our children because all these social ills that we see are happening to children while they are situated by community members. Therefore, it is only through working with communities that we can stop all these bad things that are happening to the children.”


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Teenage pregnancies

Sekgobela noted that many infants were born into dysfunctional households. He said many were exposed to the harms of unskilled parenting in cases where teen girls had fallen pregnant.

“Imagine if a 14-year old has got an infant herself, what sort of situation are we dealing with here,” he said.

Teenage pregnancies are an increasingly common occurrence in South Africa. Figures from the Gauteng Department of Health revealed more than 23,000 girls aged below 18 gave birth between April 2020 and March 2021. This placed their infants at greater risk of neglect and maltreatment.

According to Sekgobela, it was important that a policy on comprehensive sexual education was properly implemented. He believed this could prevent many more teenage pregnancies.

“It is only through the implementation of policies such as comprehensive education, [which] is important for us because it does actually round up our children holistically so that they would know if they are ready to enter into sexual relationship or not, we can [stem] the rise of teenage pregnancies,” he said.

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