Free State Department of Social Development will be observing Child Protection Week from 29 May until 5 June 2022. This is a national programme directed at preventing and responding to violence, child labour, trafficking, exploitation, harmful traditional practice and abuse against children.

The Theme for this year is: “Let Us All Protect Children During COVID– 19 and Beyond.” The focus will also be on addressing the “crisis the country is confronted with – children who fell pregnant during the COVID- 19 pandemic and gave birth during 2020/2021.

34,587 Teenagers gave birth during 2020, of which 4,255 were born in the Free State to mothers between the ages of 10 years to 18 years. In response to these worrying statistics, the Department has deployed officials in all districts to identify the schools with high numbers of learners that gave birth and those who are pregnant.

Activities will also be focused on the identification of areas where the need is to implement programmes with regard to “learner pregnancy” and “young parents”.

According to MEC for Social Development in the Free State, Ms Motlagomang “Mamiki” Qabathe Child Protection Week creates awareness for children to have access to their rights such as survival, development, growth and participation.

In the Free State Province, during the period of April 2021 till March 2022, 759 cases were reported of child abuse, neglect and exploitation were reported while in 2020/2021, the Province was standing at 607, as the Department we are concerned with the escalation, and we plan to work with all stakeholders in fighting child abuse and exploitation.

Early teenage pregnancy presents long term socio-economic challenges such as health risks for both teenage mothers and their babies, the perpetuation of the cycle of intergenerational poverty due to early school dropouts, and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

As the Department of Social Development in the Free State Province, we join the entire Nation in observing the Child Protection Week (CPW), which has been commemorated since 1997 with the purpose of mobilising communities, government and civil society organisations, including religious and traditional communities.

Our aim as the Department is to raise awareness of children’s rights, particular child protection and encourage the development care and protection of children, as well as promote child wellbeing.

The Department will conduct most of its activities for the 365 Days Child Protection Programme of Action in interactive dialogues with a small number of participants at a time per group in adherence with COVID-19 regulations.

Communities will receive information on how to protect their children and be made aware of the impact of the different forms of abuse on children, as well as the services offered by the Department. The official opening event for the Province will take place on 1 June 2022, which is also International Children’s Day.