Women in the pub­lic sec­tor

chil­dren’s rights

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The South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion's Matl­hodi An­gelina Mak­wetla is ad­vo­cat­ing for chil­dren's rights

Chil­dren are among the most vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety, with their rights of­ten vi­o­lated by those clos­est to them and those who are meant to pro­tect them.

In South Africa the rights of chil­dren are en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion.They also have Matl­hodi An­gelina Mak­wetla in their cor­ner, ad­vo­cat­ing for chil­dren's rights.

Mak­wetla has been trusted with the job of mon­i­tor­ing and in­flu­enc­ing progress by all or­gans of state in the re­al­i­sa­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional rights of chil­dren.

She was ap­pointed as a Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights in Jan­uary 2017 and serves un­der the South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (SAHRC).

With a BA (So­cial Work) de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of the North, a Man­age­ment Cer­tifi­cate from Arthur D Lit­tle Man­age­ment School in Cam­bridge in Mas­sachusetts, an Em­pow­er­ment Work­shop Trainer cer­tifi­cate from the Em­pow­er­ment In­sti­tute in New York, and an SMME Man­age­ment Cer­tifi­cate from Galilee Col­lege in Is­rael, she is cer­tainly qual­i­fied for the role.

And then add to that the var­i­ous awards and recog­ni­tion she has re­ceived, in­clud­ing Sho­prite/ Check­ers Woman of the Year

Award in the Me­dia and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions cat­e­gory, Vi­sion­ary Lead­er­ship Award from the Soweto branch of the Black Women's As­so­ci­a­tion and Top emerg­ing SMME Em­pow­er­ment Com­pany from Im­pumelelo Top Em­pow­er­ment Com­pa­nies – a recog­ni­tion en­dorsed by the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try.

“I de­scribe my­self as a so­cial en­tre­pre­neur, ded­i­cated to life-long learn­ing and up­lift­ment of dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­nity mem­bers,” she said.

Du­ties of a com­mis­sioner

Mak­wetla's of­fice re­ceives com­plaints that of­ten high­light sys­temic chal­lenges re­lat­ing to ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices, race, disability, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, ed­u­ca­tion, cul­ture, lan­guage, cit­i­zen­ship, so­cial sup­port and birth. Many of these com­plaints are about, or im­pact on, chil­dren.

Based on the com­plaints re­ceived, the right to ed­u­ca­tion; the right to be pro­tected from mal­treat­ment, ne­glect, abuse, cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment or degra­da­tion; and the right to iden­tity are the most vi­o­lated chil­dren's rights.

These com­plaints are in­ves­ti­gated by the SAHRC, who make rec­om­men­da­tions to rel­e­vant de­part­ments.

In some in­stances, de­pend­ing on the na­ture of the com­plaint, the com­mis­sion can take mat­ters to court.

It also plays the role of me­di­a­tor be­tween af­fected par­ties to help them reach a res­o­lu­tion.

Mak­wetla also said the ma­jor­ity of com­plaints are re­ceived from black South Africans.

She has also ob­served that young chil­dren be­tween the ages of zero and two are most sus­cep­ti­ble to mal­treat­ment and abuse as they can­not speak out against the abuse, while chil­dren from around three years of age and above are more sus­cep­ti­ble to hav­ing their right to ed­u­ca­tion be­ing vi­o­lated.

Mak­wetla said to bet­ter the lives of chil­dren it is im­por­tant for poverty re­duc­tion pro­grammes to make a pos­i­tive im­pact.

Ac­cord­ing to Com­mis­sion's Poverty Traps and So­cial Ex­clu­sion among Chil­dren in South Africa re­port, chil­dren born into poor and so­cially ex­cluded fam­i­lies are at high risk of be­ing caught in a poverty trap.

They have lit­tle chance of get­ting a good ed­u­ca­tion or re­ceiv­ing qual­ity health care.The re­port shows that the so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus of parents ac­tu­ally im­pacts on chil­dren's rights.

Ser­vice de­liv­ery protests and ed­u­ca­tion

In re­cent years, there have been a num­ber of in­ci­dents of school­ing be­ing af­fected as a re­sult of ser­vice de­liv­ery protests with learn­ers be­ing barred from at­tend­ing classes.

In 2015 the SAHRC con­ducted a na­tional hear­ing on the im­pact of protest-re­lated ac­tion on ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

It also con­vened a na­tional in­ves­tiga­tive hear­ing in June 2016 af­ter a num­ber of schools in Vuwani in Lim­popo were closed due to protest re­lated ac­tion.

Govern­ment de­part­ments at na­tional and provin­cial lev­els, trade unions, non-govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, school prin­ci­pals and com­mu­nity lead­ers had to ap­pear be­fore the com­mis­sion to make submissions to the hear­ing.

The com­mis­sion's probe found that the right to a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion is ad­versely af­fected by protest-re­lated ac­tion, and that in­ad­e­quate mea­sures were in place to ef­fec­tively pro­tect the right to ac­cess a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

A num­ber of re­me­dial ac­tions were rec­om­mended to govern­ment de­part­ments, call­ing for the pro­mo­tion of a shift in un­der­stand­ing, so that schools are seen to be­long to com­mu­ni­ties, and that ed­u­ca­tion be given the pri­or­ity and at­ten­tion it de­serves.

Erad­i­cat­ing racism, bul­ly­ing in schools

Be­cause el­e­ments of racism are still be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by learn­ers at var­i­ous schools across the coun­try, govern­ment has en­cour­aged learn­ers, teach­ers and com­mu­ni­ties to speak out against racism and re­port cases to rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties.

Schools have also been en­cour­aged to im­ple­ment so­cial co­he­sion pro­grammes to pro­mote in­te­gra­tion amongst learn­ers of dif­fer­ent races, eth­nic groups and cultures.

Mak­wetla said the com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gates com­plaints on an ad hoc ba­sis and that it con­tin­ues

“I de­scribe my­self as a so­cial

en­tre­pre­neur, ded­i­cated to life­long learn­ing and up­lift­ment of dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­nity mem­bers.”

to en­gage with the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion (DBE) to re­fine codes of con­duct guide­lines and au­dits of all school codes of con­ducts.

“The com­mis­sion has also worked closely with the DBE on a project aimed at in­fus­ing prin­ci­ples of hu­man rights, so­cial co­he­sion and democ­racy into the school cur­ricu­lum, while it also con­ducts ad­vo­cacy ini­tia­tives at schools,” she ex­plained.

From its 2006 pub­lic hear­ings on school-based vi­o­lence, the com­mis­sion found that bul­ly­ing was a man­i­fes­ta­tion of school­based vi­o­lence.

The com­mis­sion then rec­om­mended that a rights-based life skills pro­gramme should be na­tion­ally im­ple­mented within the ex­ist­ing ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum that in­cludes peace ed­u­ca­tion, cit­i­zen­ship ed­u­ca­tion, anti-bul­ly­ing, hu­man rights ed­u­ca­tion, anger man­age­ment, con­flict res­o­lu­tion and me­di­a­tion.

It also rec­om­mended that clear codes of con­duct that re­flect hu­man rights prin­ci­ples be de­vel­oped in schools.They should cover a full range of pro­hib­ited vi­o­lent ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing bul­ly­ing.

Rais­ing aware­ness about chil­dren's rights

Mak­wetla be­lieves that the ma­jor­ity of chil­dren and parents don't fully un­der­stand chil­dren's rights, and to some ex­tent the vi­o­la­tion of rights stems from this lack of un­der­stand­ing.

To ad­dress this, the com­mis­sion has in­vested in pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als such as colour­ing books and pam­phlets, de­tail­ing chil­dren's rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“The com­mis­sion dis­trib­utes these ma­te­ri­als to com­mu­ni­ties and schools,” she said.

Mak­wetla said the com­mis­sion em­barked on a child aware­ness cam­paign to ed­u­cate chil­dren and parents.

“The com­mis­sion has also pub­lished pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als to ed­u­cate chil­dren and the pub­lic on their hu­man rights. We have also hosted sem­i­nars and con­fer­ences with stake­hold­ers aimed at pro­mot­ing chil­dren's rights,” said Mak­wetla.

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