CONSOLING THE INCONSOLABLE
Our social workers touch lives when it matters the most and amid all the challenges they soldier on like the true social justice agents they are
Social workers touch lives amid serious challenges
HUMAN dignity is the most basic and nonnegotiable human right. For the poor and vulnerable, the destitute, the frail, the children, the aged, victims of violence and abuse, people affected by substance and drug abuse and people living with disabilities, this basic right is often accessed through others such as parents, helpers, and significantly, through social workers and caregivers.
On March 20 we joined the world community in celebrating the International Day of Social Workers in Thaba-Tshwane.
The theme this year was the Promotion of Sustainable Communities and Environment, which is the third pillar of the UN Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. Various social workers unpacked the contributions of the social work profession in the aftermath of environmental degradation that include the climate change that will result in droughts, floods, fires, displacement of people.
They also engaged on the gaps existing in the theory and practice in the new field of ecosocial work, green social work. Further engagements will take place to finalise a programme of action.
On March 21 the nation commemorated National Human Rights Day in Sharpeville, Sedibeng. This noble co-dependency by humans on humanity was embraced by the world and the people of Gauteng.
We asked the world to spare a thought for those whose work it is not only traumatic but also affect their social functioning. However, despite those challenges they are prepared to soldier on.
To borrow from Cayla Mills’ phrase: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
Our professionals often touch lives when it matters the most.
They are parents to abandoned infants that may never know their parents. They comfort the heart-broken victims and their families when faced by heinous crimes like rape, femicide, body parts harvesting, mutilations and human trafficking.
They break the news to family members when remains of loved ones are beyond recognition or faced with prospects of not finding closure where a body may never found. They console the inconsolable.
At the Gauteng department of social development (GDSD) each year, we touch lives of more than four million residents of the 12.7million people who call Gauteng their home.
We salute our social workers who work tirelessly to protect the rights of people with disability including albinism and mental disability, the elderly, our children, women and men who experience violence.
Our social workers often work in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. They are under-resourced and yet continue to do their best to help the most vulnerable in society.
As the employer, I have urged the GDSD to ensure continued support for and advocating that National Department of Social Development address the social workers call for provision of danger allowance.
I am a strong advocate for adequate funding for tools of trade for socials workers to do their work with ease.
In order to address the acute capacity shortages, we are working hard to ensure absorption of social work bursary holders and to address the shortage of supervisors. I am also worried about the challenges of office space and furniture. These must be addressed urgently.
It is pleasing to hear that their hard work is recognised. We were awarded as the best-run department in the country at the recent fifth national Batho Pele Excellence awards hosted by the national Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). Former top official Shoki Tshabalala won the award as the best head of department in the country.
Even honourable member Ntsheke of the DA could not help but commend the good work done by the department during the March sitting of the social development portfolio committee.
This is good because the work of social workers goes beyond a career.
They are social justice activists. It is for this reason that we take time to also reflect on the sacrifices made by those who contributed immensely in us attaining freedom and human rights, including struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who was also a dedicated social worker.
We salute her and we strive to emulate her good contribution by committing to build a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society; a society where all citizens enjoy equal human rights.
On occasions such as national Human Rights Day, we take collective joy in the knowledge that our nation is united against all forms of discrimination.
We enjoy a constitutional dispensation that protects and promotes the rights of others regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender and creed.
These are the reasons why we are committed to ensuring that painful events like Marikina and Life Esidemeni should never happen again.
This will ensure that the sacrifices of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, OR Tambo and many other freedom fighters were not in vain.
In the case of Life Esidimeni, the ordering of government to pay for funeral expenses, shock and trauma will go a long way to help families find closure.
Even so, we remain committed to serve our people with values of human dignity, respect, integrity, fairness and equality.
As the member of the executive council responsible for social development in Gauteng, I am humbled that our work during this 5th administration term has made an indelible mark in improving the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable communities.
It is my conviction that during this final year, the vulnerable and marginalised people in our society, will witness the intensification of the programmes and projects that seek to respond to their immediate needs.
TOUCHING LIVES: Gauteng social development MEC Nandi-Mayathula Khoza presenting awards to social workers on the International Day of Social Workers.