DATE: 15 NOVEMBER 2021
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly
Unicef Country Representative
Honourable Members of Parliament
Representatives of Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations
Ladies and gentlemen
Programme Director, allow me to thank the organisers for the invitation to join today’s webinar on the role of Parliament in building the country’s human capital foundations and for the opportunity to make the closing remarks.
This was the first multi-sectoral engagement in the sixth Parliament that is focusing on the rights and protection of children. It comes at a time when we face serious challenges in respect of promoting and protecting the rights and interests of children. As we speak, research shows that:
- At least 21 per cent of children aged 17 years and under do not live with their parents;
- At least 62 per cent of children are identified as multi-dimensionally poor;
- More than half of South Africa’s children continue to live below the poverty line; and
- 30 per cent of children live in households where no adults are employed and have little or no access to a daily healthy diet.
In light of this, I wish to commend the fifth Parliament for its foresight in establishing the strategic collaboration between Parliament and Unicef which culminated in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions in 2018. Of course, the role of Unicef in supporting capacity-building initiatives for Members and officials of Parliament predates this important milestone.
Both the fifth and sixth Parliaments have placed a high premium on ensuring empowered Members for effective and efficient functioning of Parliament. This is achievable, among other means, through the capacitation of Members and officials and the improvement of the overall support system.
It is thus commendable that our Knowledge and Information Services Division is emerging as part of the vanguard for the implementation of Parliament’s Knowledge Management Strategy. These strategic collaborations and knowledge-sharing initiatives give life to our Knowledge Management Strategy. They are critical to enhancing parliamentary oversight and deeper scrutiny.
Given its law-making, oversight and representative functions, Parliament has a great role to play in promoting and protecting the rights and interests of children.
Our Constitution provides clear guidance in how we must assist the children. Among other things, it provides that we must guarantee their right:
- To basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;
- To be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;
- To be protected from exploitative labour practices;
- Not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that –
- are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or
- place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development
Importantly, it states that everyone, children included, has the right to basic education and to further education.
Many would agree that as adults, we must also protect the children from being used to highlight and/or settle political and social grievances. I am happy that the Department of Social Development is part of today’s initiative.
One of the duties of Parliament is to lead the transformation of our society. In the process, we ought to prioritise the rights of children among the groups of vulnerable citizens. As such, we should work tirelessly to ensure that our children live in an environment that is conducive to their development.
Universally, children tend to respond positively when they are exposed to education, sport, recreation, arts, cultural and heritage activities, et cetera. Critically, these programmes also help us to combat substance abuse, gangsterism and violence.
There is however a growing call for the parents to increase their support to their children’s educational, sporting and other activities. Parliament must rally society to place the rights and interests of the children at the centre of what society does.
Programme Director, this webinar has raised the importance of using knowledge to support Parliament in performing its functions. This work must continue.
We are mindful of the fact that South Africa remains a highly unequal society where too many people live in poverty and too few people participate in the economy. This reality impacts the extent to which people are able to support and protect their children. In spite of this, Parliament has the responsibility to ensure that our limited public resources are utilised optimally to improve the chances of our children enjoying a better future.
We appreciate the fact that in spite of the limited public resources, government has been able to provide Child Support Grant to 12.8 million children, Foster Child Grant to 356 thousand children and Care Dependency Grant to 155 thousand children.
Programme Director, please allow me to extend great appreciation for this initiative and to thank everybody who participated. We must make this the age of knowledge. We must create knowledge, share it in order to benefit more people, and use it to improve our current conditions.
 Multi-dimensional poverty embraces a diverse range of characteristics such as limited financial resources, material deprivation, social isolation, exclusion and powerlessness, and physical and psychological ill-being (Walker, R. 2015)