Over the past five years, government has made great strides in protecting vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities.
Working together, the Department of Social Development and the then Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities have helped ensure that the rights and dignity of these groups are protected.
According to the Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, the democratic government inherited a divided nation, with high levels of poverty and inequality.
In 1994, government started transforming policies and programmes from a racially based welfare system of apartheid to the one that is now inclusive of all people.
“One of the main objectives was to implement measures of social protection for targeted groups such as the elderly, children, people with disabilities and victims of violence and abuse,” she explained.
Since then government has made significant progress in the fight against women and child abuse, alternative care, adoption services, child and youth care services, establishment of the victim empowerment programme and delivering services to people with disabilities.
Child Protection Week is just one of ways the department is raising awareness about the need to care for children, the Minister said.
South Africa commemorated Child Protection Week from 26 May to 1 June. The annual campaign raises awareness about the rights of children.
It started in 1997 and aims to get all sectors of society involved in the care and protection of children.
People with disabilities
Since 1994, South Africa has done well to recognise the rights of people with disabilities.
“Children with disabilities were generally not welcome in ordinary schools prior to 1994. Today, all children between the ages of seven and 15 have to attend school by law and this includes children with disabilities,” said Minister Dlamini.
“Our inclusive education policy makes it clear that children with disabilities should be accommodated in local schools and that they need to be provided with the support they need to learn,” she added.
The department’s victim empowerment programme (VEP) forms an important part of government’s goal of protecting the rights of women and children, the Minister said.
The VEP aims to make the criminal justice process more victim-friendly and effective to address the needs of all victims of crime and violence, with special focus on vulnerable groups like women and children, people with disabilities and older persons and victims of human trafficking.
VEP focuses on programmes and services that protect, support and care for victims of crime and violence. VEP also promotes and upholds the rights of victims.
The department in partnership with the Vodacom Foundation and other stakeholders has also a 24 hour Command Centre as a pilot project to assist victims of gender-based violence.
Early Childhood Development
In the past five years, access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) services has broadened significantly. By the end of the 2012/13 financial year, more than one million (1 009 022) children were accessing ECD services throughout the country.
The number of children directly subsidised by the state increased from 432 727 in 2009/10 to more than 545 347 in 2013. The number of registered ECD facilities grew from 16 250 in 2009/10 to 21 023 by the end of 2012/13.