Tuesday, 17 October 2017
A Call to Put Children First PDF Print E-mail

Children’s rights are specifically guaranteed in international law and in the constitutions and national policy of almost all countries (only the US and Somalia have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)).However, most governments do not live up to their obligations.

Organisations that Meet the Needs of Children and Young People

Children throughout the so-called developing world and in many transitional and conflict-ridden societies are deprived of the most basic rights to life, health, dignity and participation. States, including South Africa, routinely declare their concern for children but then produce budgets – allocations of public money – in ways that demonstrate very different priorities. Even where children’s basic material rights are met, their rights to participate in making decisions about their lives, to express opinions – and to have those opinions formed by facts instead of adult perceptions – are often denied.
Deborah serves on the board of several non-profit organisations in South Africa that are involved in innovative work to meet the needs of children and young people.

Realising the Rights and Potential of Children

These organisations are committed to realising the rights and potential of children, young people and their families. Their programmes recognise the agency, knowledge and experience of those whose status as ’minors’ excludes them from the very processes that shape their lives.

The Children's City 2020

The Children’s City 2020, a project to realise children’s vision for Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg, initiated by the MIDI Trust, is committed to full participation of children in mapping out and managing the city in which they live and study. As the Children’s City 2020 proposal states ‘Genuine children’s participation goes beyond acknowledging or listening to children. It finds appropriate ways to discover and respond to children’s expertise about their lives. It enables children to realise their potential to be agents of their own development in a context of adult support and guidance’. Deborah is a member of the task team for the project, which was launched in June 2008.

Before becoming involved in the Children’s City 2020 project, Deborah had been a member of the Idasa Children’s Budget Unit Reference Group. The Children’s Budget Unit ran a Children Participating in Governance project through which it trained peer facilitators from all over South Africa to undertake budget analysis, to transfer this knowledge to constituency groups and to design campaigns to advocate for children’s needs to be met in national, provincial and local government budgets. The children who were involved in this project are now young people, studying and working. Three of them presented and directed sessions at the Children’s City 2020 launch workshop in June 2008.

Muthande Society of the Aged

Muthande Society for the Aged provides services and support to older people to enable them to enjoy an independent and fulfilling life in their own homes for as long as possible. Eric has been a supporter of Muthande for more than 10 years. Deborah became involved while working at Children First. The Board of Children First, recognising that older people were playing an increasing and highly demanding role in raising children in the context of HIV and AIDS, asked Muthande’s Executive Manager to serve on its Board. Muthande agreed – on condition that Deborah join its board. Muthande is engaged in pioneering work to protect and promote the legal and socio-economic rights of older people in ways that have direct benefits for the many orphaned and vulnerable children who depend on them.

We Help our Children (WHOC) - Lifeskills and Leadership Training

We Help Our Children (WHOC) runs lifeskills and leadership training to ensure that youth play a central role in addressing issues affecting them. Based in Wentworth, which was established as a Coloured township through forced removals under apartheid, WHOC brings together young people from the diverse communities of the South Durban Basin. Deborah Ewing and Eric Apelgren have a long association with WHOC, facilitating workshops and camps, assisting with fundraising and advising on strategy. Deborah joined the board in November 2008.

CAP Farm Trust

CAP Farm Trust, Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal. CAP has worked in the Msinga area for more than 30 years. Its involvement has ranged from defending the land rights of African farmers and providing legal support for black farmworkers and their families who were persecuted under apartheid, to agricultural extension services and a renowned income-generating bead and craft project. Both Eric and Deborah have served on the CAP board. Deborah initiated a programme of Children’s Voices workshops in Msinga through the trust. This is how she came to know the two children who were raped in 1998 and whose story of courage and determination in the face of a dysfunctional criminal justice system is told in Stolen Childhood.

iMEDIATE Identity Project - Exploring Identity

IMEDIATE Identity Project - Finding ways for children’s voices to be heard is extremely urgent in a world that says ‘children are our future’ but denies millions of them a present and ignores the lessons of the past. In 2006, Deborah and Mabusi decided to start the iMEDIATE Identity Project. The idea was to work with children from different communities in South Africa to explore their identity – what is it, what shapes it, how do they feel about it, how do they belong in a country trying to come to terms with its fractured, racialised national identity? We could have written a funding proposal but we just took the idea to WOW, the Wentworth Organisation of Women.

The children they worked with were interested in experimenting with the idea and so began a project that has continued for two years, with highlights such as the children’s performance at MTN Durban Fashion Week and the creation of Lukka Clothing, and many challenges.