It takes a whole village to raise a child, because a child is an active social being who interacts with people who are not his or her parents. With each interaction, it is imperative that the child receives the same messages as to what is right and wrong, what is valued and what is to be rejected and what is safe.
It is the shared values of the village, the shared commitment to each child as a loved individual and future citizen of the village, and the shared sense of collective responsibility that underscores the truth of why it takes a whole village to raise a child. If the village does not support the proper raising of the child, then a parent has a difficult road indeed and the child is at risk.
It also takes a whole village to raise a child because a village is comprised of a diverse array of people of all ages and experiences, each of whom has something to teach a child. Similarly, it takes a village to achieve any large civic goal. It takes a shared vision, a set of shared values and a shared sense of collective responsibility for the common good. This is what the Igbo (Nigerians) teach us through proverbs. It is indeed a shared belief in the African cultures that a child belongs to the village. It is a practice used in Africa since time immemorial.
I am one of the people who believe that world peace begins in the home. The 16 Days of Activism against Women and Children is a time for renewed resolve to combat violence in our homes, workplaces and communities. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this period has become one of the most important in our calendar.
I have over the years, in my small corner, argued that 16 Days of Activism is not enough. My argument was centred around the apathy that most citizens displayed when it came to gender based violence. Most people were and are still aware that abuse is taking place right under their noses, either in their homes or their neighbour’s home and it still goes unreported. I relied on a mathematical view that saw a nation of 50 million people being active for 16 days between 25 November through 10 December, and apathy & abuse prevailing for 349 days on our calendar.
This year I call on every peace loving South African to focus their attention intensely on the problem of gender based and child-directed violence, to take stock of our progress and recommit to eradicating this scourge. We need men and women, young and old, to stand up and act against this abuse. We have in 2013 and 14 seen through the media, a number of children being raped and dumped, mutilated and murdered, from Diepsloot to Soshanguve and everywhere across the republic.
This year on, can we commit ourselves to contribute in our own small way to curb this scourge? Can we create an active citizenry that is prepared to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are protected daily? This would be true activism and would encourage our people to be active citizens who take collective responsibility to ensure that our children as future citizens are valued and protected 365 days a year instead of just 16 Days.
Our criminal justice system is by its nature a response mechanism. It swings into action after the damage has been done. We need partnerships in all spheres of society, from government, civil society and the private sector to effect change. Civil society and the private sector have from time to time proven to be more than willing partners, and we need to tap into that to make sure that our police officers charged with social crime prevention are supported with training and resources to fulfil their mandate to the satisfaction of the communities they serve.
We also need to invest resources in the social crime prevention and attract skilled psychologists and other professionals to ensure that where we could not prevent this abuse, the victims are adequately supported.
Moloko Brian Ngoepe is a 2013 Activator, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Khula-Ngolwazi Development and a member of the SADC Commission on Youth, Food and Nutrition.