Child rights group lobbies for ombudsperson

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Child rights group Molo Songololo has initiated a campaign to lobby the national government to establish the office of an ombudsperson focusing specifically on children’s issues.

Patric Solomons, director of the Cape Town based NGO, said they would meet various sector stakeholders on October 31 to outline their plans.

The NGO wants an independent ombudsperson to “receive and investigate complaints… act as a spokesperson for children… and hold government accountable”.

Solomons said the ombudsperson would also “champion the rights of children in government and civil society”.

“It will bring to the attention of government and civil society the problems children are experiencing, such as not having school books, not going to school or completing school, or not having access to clean drinking water or sanitation,” he said.

“It would also look into the situation of children caught up in gangsterism and gang violence, or children who are trafficked, prostituted and exploited.”

This office would be a space where “children’s voices are heard and opinions considered,” said Solomons.

He added: “It would investigate individual complaints from children or of children whose rights have been violated. It would report on its findings and make recommendations to government or civil society.

“It must be independent and impartial, established by an Act of Parliament and financed by the government.”

The Western Cape government committed to the establishment of a local commissioner for children, as provided for in section 78 of the provincial constitution.

The province’s Blueprint of the Modernisation Programme, a document outlining various goals, states though that the “matter was accordingly discussed at the provincial cabinet where a decision was taken not to proceed with the drafting of provincial legislation establishing a children’s commissioner, but rather that a children’s champion appointed in the office of the premier”.

Solomons said it was “nothing new” though for governments to establish child ombudspersons since the idea “originated in Sweden in 1970”.

“Today, about 70 countries have established independent human rights monitoring instruments for children,” he said.

“We need a champion for children. Every day our newspapers, radios and TV headlines confront us with horrible stories of neglect, abuse and crimes committed against children,” said Solomons.

“Most victims are children and young people from poor and under-resourced families and communities. Many are abused and hurt by the very people entrusted to care for and protect them.”

Molo Songololo’s meeting will be held at the Centre for the Book in Queen Victoria Street, opposite the Company’s Garden.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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