We need to create a safe society for children far beyond 16 day

We need to create a safe society for children far beyond 16 days

Young girls have begun vetting universities for their higher-education dreams based on safety, says Carole
Podetti-Ngono, founder and managing director at Valued Citizens Initiative.

She says as we commemorate 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children culminating with the observation of International Human Rights Day today, the significance of these days of reflection needs to translate into reality for children.

“For the first time, we have girl learners with chances of going to university on a bursary choosing universities based on safety and gender-based violence prevalence,” says Podetti-Ngono.

Valued Citizens Initiative is a Non-Profit Organisation that inspires South Africans to lead a purpose-driven life, adding value to society and contributing towards the South African economy. The organisation provides essential soft skills and professional development programmes to various stakeholders, but in particular the pillars of children’s development – educators and professionals in social work and parents.

“Fearful of stepping into higher learning institutions, where they could be victims of gender-based violence, racism, or any other violation of their human rights and safety, the choice of our girl Matriculants is narrowing so, as we work with government, it is key to bring all relevant and ethical stakeholders to collaborate for a holistic approach on prevention to become the focus.

“At Valued Citizens Initiative, we believe in the development of leadership skills in young people to enhance self-awareness to strengthen self-confidence, self-management skills, open communication and creativity to become problem-solvers and able to have a voice to set boundaries and feel safe. Young people experience their first formal organisation at school and models of leadership are developed from this critical period. While at school, many adolescents are wishful to find positive role-models. So, through our programme and in particular our iNSPIRE programme, we develop a new generation of leaders within the school ecosystem and this shift realities.

The programme focuses on Grade 9 girl learners that we follow until Grade 12 from rural and township public schools in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Free State provinces. It has reached more than 1 300 girl learners from 137 public high schools.

“This has had a positive effect on the young girls in school, in their communities and their understanding of their role in the wider society,” says Podetti-Ngono.

“However, it is time our young people feel safe and secure stepping outside of the basic-education premises to pursue their life-long role as Valued Citizens, so it is essential to work with government, law firms, corporate, higher education institutions and NGO’s committed to render sustainable programmes instead of events.

She says the link between gender-based violence, human rights, and children in South Africa has become horrendous.

“During 16 Days of Activism our focus tends to be on women, what about the children? Children need to feel safe and they need to know that they have access to their rights,” Podetti-Ngono.

She says at Valued Citizens Initiative, we develop constitutional literacy, but it’s the society we create that reinforces the access to these rights. We believe it is time to create synergies and play a bigger role by working together.

“What do our children do with all these life skills in a world in which they do not feel safe, valued or seen?” asks Podetti-Ngono.

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