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Simply put, Girls and Boys Town South Africa strives to protect children and help them become their best self. Every function of GBTSA is geared towards this. The work we do is amazing and we often forget the magic we create and forget to let others in to help us get all children to this ideal.

To do more of this, we began a series of Facebook Live sessions aimed at opening up discussions on raising children and improving the society around them. While in its infancy, we hope it will become something that everyone relies on for action-provoking insights that celebrate and share our work.

The protection of children begins with recognising that children need protection as our own Karen Farred and Saneliswa Mqobongo spoke about in early November. The abuse and neglect of children is a heart-breaking reality – one that has necessitated our very existence.  There are many that see us as providers of services that, in a way, absolves society of self-correcting its ills.  We would all prefer to live in a world where children are cherished and remain safe – thus no need for protection organisations to exist.

In the talk Karen and Saneliswa acknowledge that children are vulnerable within our society. The experience that everyone has in their childhood affects who they are as adults and creates bigger room to continue the cycle of abuse and neglect. Children who are exposed to violence exhibit challenges such as anti-social behaviour and contesting authority; they engage in high-risk sexual behaviour; drinking alcohol and taking drugs and tend to suffer from anxiety and depression. When these effects are not addressed in childhood, they manifest in adulthood through inabilities to hold a job and to understand relationships in healthy and meaningful ways. To the greater society the impact is huge. You have a generation of children who often don’t have the adequate skills or discipline to contribute to economic growth or are unable to be independent and this demands greater investment in security forces and social aid. The talk provided valuable information on how to recognise children who may be experiencing violence and most importantly find ways to provide support.

It is safe to say that, the cycle of violence starts and ends with grown-ups. It is evident that along with doing the work that validates the humanity of children and cements their right to exist in a safe world, we must also work on the psyche of adults. This means addressing and challenging certain societal norms. For this we need some big guns. Our first session on this issue was hosted with Megan de Beyer, psychologist and author of “How to raise a man” with the topic “Why nurturance is not just a role for women”.

It is well-documented that gender-based violence in South Africa is a crisis. Many have attributed it to – although don’t limit this just to that – the notions of masculinity and how these are practised in our country. These notions can be summarised as: men should be strong, men should not show emotion and men should always be men – providers and creators of the law in the home and society. What this attitude robs among us is the ability to feel compassion for others and opportunities to provide safe spaces for all. Men, like women, are multi-dimensional beings with emotions, sensitivities and a need to express that. With this talk Megan questioned a long-standing belief that only women are capable of being nurturers because of their grasp of emotions and “softness”.

Men and women can and should play a role in nurturing children. Their involvement is of equal importance. The key is understanding the different ways to nurture and not stereotype it to gender. At GBTSA this conversation was also an ode to our male colleagues who contribute so passionately to ensuring that we protect our children in every possible way we can. We hope that their example and Megan’s talk serves as an inspiration and a call-to-action for all of us to play a part in protecting children and creating a better society for them to exist in.

If you are stumped on what gift to get for your loved ones this festive season, we are excited to collaborate with Megan who is kindly donating R100 to Girls & Boys Town SA for every book bought as her Christmas gift to us. Order her personally signed book directly from her by emailing [email protected] for the duration of the festive season. Please include your name and full postal address and it will be posted to you OR order the e-book on amazon.co.uk or @amazon. Your support will help us to make a difference to a child at Girls & Boys Town SA.

Also keep a look out on our Facebook page for more exciting Facebook Lives in the future.

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