Many children around South Africa are at risk of falling victim to abusers. Organisations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) have been at the forefront of the the fight against child abuse. As South Africa observes #ChildProtectionWeek, we chat to Unicef South Africa’s Chief of Social Policy and Child Protection Mayke Huijbregts about the importance of this week and what needs to be done to eliminate violence against children. 

Huijbregts says it is everyone’s responsibility to create safe spaces for children. She points out that there are many factors that have combined to make South Africa a violent country. 

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“First of all, South Africa has been affected by violence for a long time. There has been a lot of trauma,” she says.

Inequality and poverty are also contributing to the scourge. Huijbregts believes that the government needs to accelerate access to justice for victims of abuse.

In a statement, Unicef condemned acts of violence against women and urged the government to increase investment in prevention and early intervention programmes to promote violence-free communities.

“These horrific crimes are yet another sign that violence is a daily reality for too many women and children living in South Africa’, said Unicef South Africa’s Hervé Ludovic de Lys. “Unicef is deeply saddened and expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families of these young girls and women.”

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In collaboration with government, Unicef has launched Isibindi, a community-based programme aimed at curbing the scourge of violence against children.

“Isibindi focuses on the psycho-social wellbeing of children and adolescents by supporting positive caregiving and dialogue in the most disadvantaged families and communities, and assisting families to access key services. Combined with Safe Parks, which are spaces for recreation and learning created especially for at-risk children, Isibindi is driving positive change,and offers hope and opportunity for children at risk across the country,” reads the Unicef statement.