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Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund tackles shortfalls in child legislation

On Thursday, 18 November 2021, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (the Fund) will host a webinar
to discuss gaps related to the Children’s Amendment Bill.Entitled, “The Children’s Amendment Bill: Age and Consent – Important gaps remain unaddressed,” the discussion will be moderated by media personality, Joanne Joseph, and will include the CEO of the Fund, Konehali Gugushe, as well as a range of experts in children’s rights, child law, and implementation partners of the Fund.

Sponsored by Nedbank, the virtual event will run between 17:30 – 19:30 and will be open to the public and media.The Fund is the first legacy organisation founded by former president Nelson Mandela in 1995 with a
vision to change the way society treats its children and youth. A social development agency, the Fund’s work includes lobbying and advocacy to influence policy to improve the lives of children in the country and the region.

The webinar follows submissions made by the Fund last year to parliament on gaps in the Children’s Amendment Bill No 38 of 2005. Gugushe says that the Children’s Act, 2005 and the Children’s Amendment Bill are important pieces of legislation that cut across various children’s rights issues and the event will provide an opportunity to further interrogate these together with partners in the children’s rights sector.

Says Gugushe, “Issues related to consent are quite complex and have to be balanced against full understanding from a child’s perspective, different cultural and social contexts but ultimately ensuring that the rights of children are not compromised in this process. As an organisation, it is our mission to facilitate these discussions and to ensure that civil society’s voice is heard together with the voices of children in informing legislation that governs their lives.”

In its written and oral submissions to parliament, the Fund commended the efforts made by the South African government in reviewing this legislation as an important step in improving children’s rights in the country. “Through this process, we were able to highlight pertinent gaps in legislation,chief among these were inconsistencies in the thresholds of age where arguments of age and consent are in direct contradiction to the protection of children’s rights. This suggests that we then need to strengthen legislation and coordinate ourselves as civil society in this process,” says Gugushe.

Nedbank is a long-standing partner of the Fund and has supported the organisation since its inception in advancing its mission. In recent years, for instance, the bank has collaborated with the Fund on various initiatives such as the primary healthcare vaccination drive called #VaxtheNation,for children under the age of five, through the Fund’s Child Survival, Development and Thrivingprogramme.

Group Executive at Nedbank, Khensani Nobanda, says, “As a financial services provider that does good in the economy and society at large, Nedbank, through a wide range of impactful projects, is passionate about sowing into the future generations of our country. Through the Nedbank Children’s Affinity Programme we have donated over R110 million by offering our loyal customers a powerful way to invest in the wellbeing of our children. At absolutely no cost to customers, the Programme allows them to support the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund’s strategic programmes, as they go about their normal daily banking and investing with Nedbank.

In sponsoring the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund CEO Forum webinar today, Nedbank realises the urgent need to close important gaps that remain unaddressed by The Children’s Amendment Bill”. Media personality Joanne Joseph says that it is an honour for her to moderate the discussion. “This event will go a long way in bringing together expert views and to interrogate legislation as well as how far our country has come in truly protecting and promoting the rights of children. I am looking forward to the inputs of the panellists as well as the broader participation.”

According to Gugushe, the period for the discussion is also of significance. “In November we celebrated National Children’s Day and will soon celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will then be followed by the 16 Days of Activism for Violence against Women and Children. We, therefore, want to advance these discussions during this period while promoting issues of safety through our ongoing programme work and forums for advocacy.”

The event panellists will include:
• Ms. Karabo Ozah – Executive Director, Centre for Child Law (University of Pretoria)
• Dr Joan van Niekerk – Former Executive Director at Childline
• Mr. Edward Mafadza – CEO, CRL Rights Commission
• Mr. Petros Majola – Programmes Director, Khula Community Development Project

The public can register on the following link to participate in the event at no
charge: https://nmcfceoforum.liveevent.co.za/

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