Children Affected by Aids: briefing by Children in Distress Network

Social Development

31 October 2006
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 November 2006
CHILDREN AFFECTED BY AIDS: BRIEFING BY CHILDREN IN DISTRESS NETWORK

Chairperson:
Ms T S Tshivhase (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Children FIRST: A Journal on Issues Affecting Children and Their Carers [available at www.childrenfirst.org.za]
Children in Distress Network (CINDI) Annual Report including Halala CINDI 10th Anniversary Conference, April 2006
Forgotten People: Realities and Rights for Farm Dwellers in KwaZulu Natal Midlands, (Association for Rural Advancement)
Electronic Document of 10th Anniversary of Children in Distress Network Pietermaritzburg [available at www.cindi.org.za]
Children in Distress Network (CINDI) Annual Report

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed by the Children in Distress Network on the challenges posed by children affected by HIV and AIDS. Issues such as HIV and AIDS awareness, government cooperation and leadership, contraception, social welfare, improvement of health provision, the children’s voices, the role of Community Based Organisations, gender roles in tackling HIV and AIDS, as well as life skills development were covered. The Committee raised concerns about the Child Grant and the implications of increased social welfare. The funding and role of CBOs was discussed, as well as school leave for pregnant teenagers. The Committee agreed that an annual meeting with the children’s sector should be organised in order to maintain awareness of developments on the ground.   

MINUTES
Ms Yvonne Spain from the Children in Distress Network (CINDI) opened the meeting by introducing her collegues Ms Stella Zulu (CINDI), Ms Kate Pallett (CINDI youth representative) and Mr Zakhele Xaba (Friends 4 Life).

Ms Spain outlined the main objectives of CINDI, which are to serve children who are affected by HIV and AIDS, and to work towards a unified civil society in order to effectively implement strategies for children who are affected by HIV and AIDS in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands region. Through the development of community based working groups, CINDI has attempted to ensure that adequate healthcare, housing, nutrition and education is available to youths affected by AIDS. She proceeded to report on the achievements that CINDI has accomplished over the last ten years (see document for further detail).

Ms Zulu and Ms Pallett reported on the CINDI 10th anniversary conference held in April 2006. The conference was attended by both national and international delegates, where a three day workshop dealt with raising awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS, as well as urging government to take up a stronger position on HIV and AIDS. The principal messages were:

• The effects of HIV and AIDS should not prevent a child from attending school, and schools should be a place were children in distress receive support.
• Government should take a strong lead in promoting awareness in all strata of society through development and implementation of legislation. This may be achieved through cooperation and coordination between departments. The Department of Home Affairs should be managed with more efficiency, so as to aid children in receiving the vital documents needed to obtain the Child Grant. The grant also should be extended to children until the age of eighteen.
• Better health provisions should be made for parents and children who are affected.
• Nutrition for impoverished children should be provided by extending the reach of feeding programmes.
  The function of volunteers and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) should be recognized, and this source of aid should be bolstered by skills development programmes.
• Children should participate in the problem solving process. This involves the promotion of the use of male and female contraceptives, as well as the increased incorporation of boys in lifeskills programmes (see document for further detail).

Mr Xaba described the problems that confront CBOs. Potential sponsors are wary of providing funding to CBOs due to their lack of financial management experience. These organisations also do not have access to IT, and therefore struggle to communicate outside of their communities. Another obstacle is the inability to access grants for children due to the poor administration of Home Affairs.

Ms Spain closed the presentation by requesting that the Social Development Portfolio Committee please consider holding an annual meeting with the Children’s Sector in order to gauge how much has been accomplished for children in South Africa. She also appealed to the committee to raise the problems that the Children’s Sector has experienced with Home Affairs.

Discussion   
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) praised CINDI for its accomplishments and good work it had completed over the last ten years. He noted the organisation’s limited constituency, and asked whether it would be possible to extend CINDI to all provinces. He commented that the primary reason CBOs received minimal funding, was because they were not accountable to any institution or body.

Ms Spain responded that CINDI had limited funding and that expanding would entail high costs. The organization was publishing a networking manual based on the CINDI model to aid other Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and CBOs, which would be available on 15 December.

Mr Xaba replied that CBO accountability is improving, as many organisations such as the Friends for Life are in mentorship programmes, where they are held accountable to CINDI. In these cases, CBOs have to comply with monitoring and write quarterly reports. Friends for Life was currently receiving financial management training from CINDI.   

Adv M Masutha (ANC) asked if CINDI’s feeding proposal intended all schools to receive feeding programmes. He noted that if government were to subsidise children who can afford to pay school fees, the social development budget would be poorly spent.

Ms Pallett replied that the feeding scheme should apply to all government schools, and not private schools.

Ms H Weber (DA) stated that the Child Grant did not necessarily automatically exempt a child from school fees and requested CINDI’s view on this matter.

Ms Spain explained that children who are on the Child Grant should be exempt from paying school fees, yet there is a constant battle with school principals to accept these terms.

Adv Masutha raised the question of CINDI’s definition of a child, as the meaning is contested. According to labour legislation, children are able to work from the age of 16, while others believe that the youth includes people from the age of 14 to 35. He was concerned that excessive social welfare would affect the mindset of people, as in the case of Britain and the United States, it could possibly result in an imbalanced dependency on government welfare.

Ms Spain stated that CINDI subscribes to the UN’s definition of a child, which is from birth to the age of 18. She doubted that people would become dependent on government for handouts, and noted that the Child Grant and Basic Income Grant give people to the opportunity to escape the rut of absolute poverty.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) referred to the call to extend the Child Grant to eighteen years as problematic, as many children between the ages of fourteen and eighteen are already married, or have children. Many children at this age believe that they are adults and act accordingly.

Ms Zulu conceded that when some children reach a certain age they may perceive themselves as adults, but that is only a certain type of child. Other youths over the age of fourteen are in a situation where they have to support themselves. Without the Child Grant, they are forced to leave school. This can lead to child trafficking and prostitution in order to survive. She emphasized that by recognizing this reality, the Child Grant may be identified as a crucial aid to children

Adv Masutha complimented CINDI on their suggestion of increased incorporation of boys in care giving and lifeskills, and added that the Gender Equality Commission should become involved in this issue. Boys need to be socialized from a young age in order to entrench these new ideas.

Ms F Batyi (ID) noted that the proposal of increasing youth knowledge of female condoms could be problematic, as the insertion of femidoms is difficult.

Ms Zulu noted that many young girls do not have negotiation skills in relationships because of the patriarchal mindset that dominates in society. If abstinence, faithfulness and condoms are not an available option, girls will still be able to empower themselves by using a femidom. Also by giving girls the skills to negotiate in relationships, the problem of HIV/AIDS transmission and teenage pregnancy can be tackled.

Mr M Walters (DA) requested CINDI’s view on the proposal for youth maternity leave of four months.

Ms Pallett replied that teenage pregnancy leave was beneficial, as it would give teenage mothers time to recover and return to school, as for many girls. education is the only way out of poverty.

Ms I Direko (ANC) asserted that by condoning teenage pregnancy, the moral degeneration of society is an inevitable consequence. It is necessary to take a firm moral stance with youth, and urge the youth to be accountable for their actions. She retorted that if any pregnant youths approached her in search of sympathy, she would use a sjambok on them to instil a sense of sexual responsibility.

Ms Gumede agreed with Ms Direko on this issue by stating that there should be some deterrent mechanism installed to prevent teenage girls from falling pregnant.

Mr Morwamoche suggested that because of the highly influential role media plays in society, it may be used as an effective tool in educating the youth on morality. Social development needs to have a wider influence on society.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC) agreed with CINDI on the matter of communication between NGOs and government. The relationship between the Portfolio Committee and NGOs should be strengthened, as it is important to be aware of developments at the ground level. He noted that Parliament had become clustered according to its different departments and it was necessary to unite in order to fill the gaps in different policies that affect each other. He urged the Committee to accept CINDI’s appeal for annual meetings.

The Chair concluded the discussion by stating that the presentation was very informative, and that the issue of children’s rights regarding HIV and AIDS is a hands-on affair that should require full participation from all sectors of society.

The meeting was a
djourned.


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