Building a caring society
As the country marks Social Development Month in October, we can reflect on the significant progress we have made in improving the welfare of those families and children who are in need. Thanks to the social programmes put in place by our democratic government, older South Africans and people with disabilities are also more secure.
American civil rights activist Pearl S Buck once wrote:“Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members”.At the birth of South Africa's democratic dispensation, government embraced a developmental framework to address a history of underdevelopment.
South Africa is spending more than R150 billion on social safety net grants. Of every R100 spent on social programmes, R42 goes towards family and child grants.The share for pensioners is R41, while R16 goes to the sick and disabled.The remaining rand is held in reserve to fund emergency relief in the event of a natural disaster.
We have succeeded in raising families out of poverty, made education accessible to every child, and improved universal access to healthcare. In responding to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, we developed and rolled out the largest antiretorivral programme in the world, including one of the largest and most successful campaigns to prevent motherto-child transmission.
The aim of the country's social programmes has always been to ensure that no South African is left behind, and to reaffirm the belief expressed in the Freedom Charter – “The people shall share in the country's wealth”.
We continue to make significant progress in promoting the welfare of our citizens, however, many needs and challenges remain. Research by Statistics South Africa shows that the discomforts of poverty are most heavily visited on women. In fact, you are most likely to be poor if you are uneducated, young, Black and female.
South Africa's social safety net is expansive, but there is still work to be done and people who need our help and support.
Real community development is dependent on government reaching out and speaking to the communities we serve. We must work to create awareness of our programmes that tackle challenges such as poverty and access to education, among others. It is through listening to the concerns of communities that we will improve service delivery.
There is a month of activities planned that will draw in the partners that we must work with to ensure that we build on our success. We must, as public servants, use this month to reach out to communities, business and civil society to ensure that no part of our country remains out of our reach.
Consider this the month when we begin to work smarter in raising awareness about development programmes and speed up the pace of building caring and sustainable communities.
Phumla Williams, GCIS Acting Director-General.