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

Afro Voice (Northern Cape) - - INSIDE - NANDI MAY­ATHULA-KHOZA Nandi May­athula-Khoza is MEC for so­cial de­vel­op­ment in Gaut­eng

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.

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