Residents march against child abuse

Representatives of Bridges of Hope Sisanda Siboto and Bulelani Mbinda talk about the awareness campaign.

A group of residents and representatives of an NGO, Bridges of Hope, braved freezing weather to raise a awareness about child abuse and neglect in Vlei informal settlements of Philippi, on Friday September 15.

They marched through the area handing out pamphlets highlighting the dangers of child neglect and abuse as they made their way to a community hall where various government and community stakeholders had gathered.

They said that they were deeply concerned about incidents of child abuse in their community and felt obliged to take a stand against it.

They said their actions had been triggered by a recent incident in which a man had burnt his six-year-old son’s legs on an electric stove.

They described the incident as senseless and unacceptable and pointed out that they had fought tooth and nail to ensure that the father was arrested.

Bulelani Mbinda, of Bridges of Hope, said that during door-to-door visits in the area, they had established that children were at high risk of abuse in the area.
He said they also discovered that many children had no identity documents and parents did not know where to apply for them.

He said the aim of the awareness campaign was to appeal to the conscience of men and women to be the voice and protectors of children. He said a true reflection of a society was how it treated children. He called on men to lead the fight against the abuse of women and children and urged the community to play an interactive role in raising children. “We want our community to be a better place to raise children. We are no longer going fold our arms and watch children being abused.

“We call on the police to arrest perpetrators of violence,” he said.

Mr Mbinda said they wanted residents to be agents of change in their communities.

Resident Nomthandazo Siyoyo said she was glad the organisation had decided to raise awareness about some of the challenges facing the community.

She said that residents were unable to speak out about abuse because they did not know who to speak to or how to handle it.

But now, she said, they were well-informed and equipped with knowledge. She said before the organisation embarked on a door to door campaign a number of people had not had IDs and children had not had birth certificates, but now that was a thing of the past. Area director of Bridges of Hope, Sisanda Siboto, said they were building bridges into the lives of those who were suffering to create long-term, self-sustaining solutions to the “deep problems of our world”. She said the organisation’s members living in townships were often starved of critical information and that many negative perceptions about townships existed.

She said they worked very hard to educate residents about their rights and how to get help from government institutions.