By Mpofu Sthandile
Violence against children remains one of the most critical challenges facing South Africa. This, according to UNICEF, places many children at risk of domestic violence, neglect, as well as substance and sexual abuse.
The rise in unemployment because of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, among other socio-economic factors, has further exacerbated pre-existing challenges and resulted in a sharp increase in crime as well as community and domestic violence. According to Childline Gauteng data, 2020 saw a 54% increase in cases on its Help Line, with Covid-19 cases dominating; followed by family problems, abuse cases, poverty, neglect and children with behavioural problems and substance abuse.
Each child, however, has the potential to succeed when given a stable foundation in the form of a safe home, family and community. Against this backdrop, Childline has embarked on a campaign inviting people to call our 24/7 Help Line to talk through their painful experiences and find their inner peace. We hope this will spark collective engagements about structural reforms required to achieve a peaceful society where children are protected from violence and given a chance to succeed and thrive.
The campaign dubbed “Peace Is Calling” is being rolled out in eight communities across the Gauteng province where families are highly fractured with only half the child population living with both parents; 34 % living with single mothers and 10.6 % living with neither parent. The targeted communities are Johannesburg, Soweto, Sebokeng, Orange Farm, Katorus, Tembisa, Tshwane and Diepsloot
“Through our Peace is Calling campaign, we will offer peacebuilding engagements in communities affected by violence and promote peace and an end to all forms of crime and violence in the interest of children. We hope to remind children, parents, and vulnerable communities that Childline is available to assist through its centres and its Help Line available 24/7, toll free by calling 116,” says Childline Gauteng Director Lynne Cawood.
As part of the campaign, Childline Gauteng has also created a unique whistle for peace tune that would serve as a call to safety for children when there is unrest in their communities.
“The act of whistling has a history within the communities we are trying to reach. It is used as a method to call for help, to let your friends know where you are, greet people and gather people in many ways. Historically used to pass around top-secret messages, we are using the tune to pass around a not-so-secret message of our own. This will be South Africa’s way of calling for peace and unity,” says Cawood.
Through the campaign, Childline Gauteng also seeks to encourage community members to take a stand against violence in their communities and create a peaceful environment where children can realise their dreams and succeed.
“It is also much easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults. With peace in communities, children can thrive and have a positive future, but the onus is on us all to create a peaceful environment.”
Through the Peace is Calling campaign, Childline Gauteng is also promoting a child and human rights culture, emphasizing that positive values such as honesty, compassion, and standing up for what is right is important if we are to succeed.
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