Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Standing up for our children


I had a very disturbing conversation with Baby, who is not yet 9 years old, over the weekend about little Sheldean Human and the way communities have been mobilised to protest against her death, as well as lobbying for better protection for children.

“How come we had to wear pink t-shirts and blue jeans to school to sympathise with Sheldean’s death, and nothing like that is done when a Black child is killed?” she asked.

Baby even cited a recent incident where five girls were murdered and stuffed into a bath tub. Their grandmother was found lying dead in the bedroom. “Our school principal did not make us wear pink to sympathise with those kids,” she said.

At first I was shocked. Race has never been a major issue in our home so where did thoughts of being discriminated against come from?

The only explanation I could think of is that kids do talk at school, and one of the learners must have expressed these sentiments, and they made enough sense for Baby to carry them home.

I had to acknowledge to her that I was not aware of a recent lobby for justice on behalf of Black kids who were killed (and there are many who are killed daily)recently.

However, I refused to allow a murder/abuse/ child safety matter to be made into a racial discrimination issue. If I let such thoughts fester in Baby’s mind and heart, where would they take her?

How would they affect her very real and valued relationship with friends and relatives who happen to be White? How would she look on her grandparents, aunts and a whole pile of cousins with love and affection if there is a part of her that believes her life has less value than theirs because of differences in race?

“The problem is not that the lives of White children are valued more than the lives of Black children in South Africa, because that is completely untrue,” I said.

I told I couldn’t deny that some kind of racial divide still exists in SA, even if it’s mostly economic, not political. But when it came to the issue of child murders, I thought the problem was that there are not enough people, Black and White, standing up to protest and lobbying for their protection.

The people who told you people are lobbying for justice against Sheldean’s murder because she’s White should have stood up to be counted when those 5 girls were killed.

They should have suggested that parents, schools and the whole country do something to commemorate these kids, or they could have joined Solidarity so Sheldean is not the only child held as a symbol.

I told her I know some of the union officials (which I do) and couldn’t conceive that they would not be open to working with other people so they all have a louder voice.

“Since you know them, shouldn’t you have stood up and suggested we mourn those girls too, and maybe wear clothes to commemorate them like we mourned Sheldean?”

Inside I was thinking, no baby, I’m just an innocent bystander on this issue. I’m an ordinary woman, being with her family, raising her kid. In my spare time, I write warm fuzzy kiddie stories that I hope publishers will want to publish, parents will want to buy and kids will want to read for pleasure.

The hard truth? Yes, I am one of those people who should stand up and do something to lobby for better protection for children.

Every parent and every grown-up should do something to protect the rights of children. If we don’t, the child murderers will continue their atrocities, and God forbid, one day I might going through the same pain Sheldean’s mother is going through.


According to a report Solidarity will share with conference participants tomorrow:

* More than 3children are murdered in South Africa everyday
* A child is raped every 24 minutes
* Every 8 minutes a child is molested
* 40% of rapes that are reported in South Africa relate to child rape.


If you’d like to do your bit to support children’s organisations in your area, check out the online directory of non-profit organisations at or ask Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa to help you identify an organisation that fits your criteria.

You can also contact People Opposed Against Women’s Abuse

Read about the murder that Baby cited here

And in case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t been looking for opportunities to blog about child abuse lately. Fate is playing a very interesting game with me.

For more inforation about the conference tomorrow, email

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