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Martha Chauke – Dobsonville Human Rights Advice Office
The workshop attendees at the Dobsonville Human Rights Advice Centre

On the 8th of June 2019, Citizen Justice Network attended a workshop hosted by the Dobsonville Human Rights Advice Office on Children’s Rights, facilitated by Hogan Lovells candidate attorneys. The workshop was part of the South African Child Protection Week’s planned activities to commemorate the awareness week which started from 2- 9 June 2019, to support the Social Development department initiative whose theme was “Let’s protect all children to move South Africa forward”. The community of Braamfischerville gathered to receive information on the legal rights of children in terms of the constitution and legislation of South Africa.  

The workshop opened with the famous words by Frederick Douglas “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” and further elaborated on Section 28 and The Children’s Act (38) (2005) of the Constitution which guarantees specific rights to children, even those who are not South African nationals. This law is applicable to all children mainly because they are the most vulnerable people in society, dependent on parents, families and guardians; and if not well taken care of they can be taken care of by the state. The event was attended by single parents, community based organisations (CBOs), the area’s youth police forum and candidate attorneys from Hogan Lovells.

The people who attended spoke from their neighbours’ experiences, and within their family structures. The sentiments shared across the room were of three major concerns in the area; Firstly, children from different nationalities are being discriminated against, children are being abused and children are not being maintained by their parents, which are all violations against children’s rights under Section 28 of the Constitution.

“..Can a person apply for a social grant when their child is born in South Africa even though their parents are foreigners and what is the nationality of a child when they are born in South Africa but both parents are non-South African?” These are some of the questions asked by some of the workshop attendees and volunteers.

According to Tumelo of Hogan Lovells, Section 28 (1) (a) makes provisions for the right to a name and nationality of a child –  it states that the child is South African if both parents have citizenship in the country. Martha Chauke the paralegal journalist for CJN addressed the second question by referring to the SASSA guidelines, which stipulates that if a child is born in South Africa and has a birth certificate, they are eligible to apply and receive social grant even when their parents are non-South African.

The second concern for the community was the issue of negligence and abuse of children who are made to work so that they can feed their families (also known as exploitative labour practices) and those who are asked to take care of their younger siblings by parents (known as exploitative non-labour practices), depriving these children of the opportunity to go to school. It is also clear that the law explicitly spells out that the community is obligated to take shared responsibility in protecting children. They should involve social workers, the police and report the cases to ChildLine on 080 005 5555, a toll- free crisis line. At this point of the workshop, CBOs and other socially active community members who were present made a vow to assist foreign nationals who come forward with such cases and also take action against children abuse to alleviate the burden placed on government official’s offices.  

By: Ntombikayise Gijana

Editorial Intern