News in South Africa

News in South Africa

OVC | From management to prevention Part 1

The eldest sister of a child-headed household,takes the young ones to school.

Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC)

From Management to Prevention

South Africa.

By Anita Marshall:  Regional OVC Support Initiative (ROSI).


Can we dare to move from OVC management to OVC prevention?  Can we even have the discussion?  Here are some aspects of the debate.


Each country has different policies, social norms, beliefs, values, religious and cultural social systems that impact on the situation of children. 

In Africa in general, we need to examine how patriarchal culture impacts on prevention work.  It seems that cultural protection of the patriarchal right to multiple, con-current partners, is one of the most difficult challenges that we face as a continent.


‘South Africa is rated as one of the countries with the most people affected by the HIV pandemic.  In 1990, 1% of women tested at antenatal clinics were infected with HIV; by 2000 this figure had risen to 25%. The most affected people are between 15 and 49 (i.e. in the reproductive age group). This is the most economically active group of the population in any society.



South African figures on HIV show that the infection rates are higher among women, and nearly half of all those currently infected are women. Several factors give rise to this state of affairs but the unequal balance of power between men and women is seen as the main contributory factor behind the increasing number of HIV positive women’. HBC Rapid Appraisal. 2003. National Department of Health.



Addressing gender inequality, particularly the extent of sexual violence in South Africa, is one of the biggest challenges that we face as a country. 

For this reason, the ROSI (Regional OVC Support Initiative) team chose to implement the Basic Facilitation Skills training in all countries by using a child abuse prevention workshop as a model for facilitation methodology.  The workshop uses human rights concepts to unravel the status of children in families, cultures and communities.

No doubt, the experiential activities generate a lot of dialogue, particularly amongst the men. In general the workshops have been well received by the countries we have started implementing in.  It covers; understanding child abuse, gender and sexuality education, understanding power dynamics and child protection strategies. 

Although, South Africa has horrendous sexual violence statistics, it is clear that patriarchy throughout Africa is well protected by men and women alike.

FACT:  South Africa has amongst the highest incidences of reported sexual abuse cases in the world.


Rape and attempted rape

0-11 years

12-17 years



Eastern Cape

1 014

1 787

4 122

6 923

Free State



2 181

3 495


1 727

2 572

8 081

12 380


1 994

2 848

4 574

9 417




2 033

3 558

North West


1 250

2 849

4 739

Northern Cape



1 034

1 539

Northern Province


1 165

2 171

3 711

Western Cape


1 829

4 088

6 788


7 898

13 540

31 112

52 580

SAPS statistics.  January to December 2000. Reported cases.



Rape statistics in S.A. has become a significant site of struggle.  Previous President, Thabo Mbeki at some stage put a moratorium on releasing rape statistics because he felt that it created an impression of a nation of men who have no control over their libido. 

Our subsequent president, in a rape trial, said that in his culture, a woman wearing a kanga (wrap-around skirt); could be regarded as inviting sex.  More recently, it has been reported in the S.A. media that police officers had changed the rape statistics, specifically minimizing the extent of sexual abuse of children.  Quite clearly, it is a topic that puts a lot of men on the defensive.


The unacceptable statistics above, (look at the 0-11 year group for only one province), indicates why – it explodes the traditional myth of men as ‘protectors’ of women and children.  It holds a mirror to our society and provides a reflection of men who have no understanding of equal rights and no desire to contemplate the concept of equality between men and women.  The sexual violence statistics, however, is not only confined to adult women as victims, it spills over into sexual abuse of children at an alarming and abnormal rate.


In a country with such a high rate of sexual violence against young children, we have to ask what chance do orphans and other vulnerable children stand in protecting themselves.  It is easy to deduce that increased orphan-hood will lead to increased infection rates in the country.


Many people, however, do not see the link between patriarchy and the increase in orphan-hood. Clearly though, if men, who have power in sexual relationships, took more responsibility in terms of; exercising self-control, condom use, respectful relationships and subsequent support and care of children, we would be looking at a different picture.


To a large extent, women are left with the full burden of child-care (seen as a woman’s job), many men never really bond with the children - and children are therefore also more easily objectified as objects for sex.


Taken from Department of Social Development document “Estimates of Orphans.  S.A.  2002”


Total child pop. > 15 years

Orphans due to all causes of death

% child pop. > 15 years


13 769 200

593 603



14 355 406

723 305



14 093 765

1 203 211



13 179 300

2 504 270



11 619 017

3 501 470



In the table above the Department of Social Development (2002) used a model of estimating the orphan growth rate per annum to estimate the growth of orphans in the country until 2010.

Our challenge as a country in addressing the gender dimensions of the orphan challenge will be to look at those particular aspects of orphan-hood that can address the powerlessness of children.  These include;

Access to education and keeping girls in school, - as orphaned girls are more likely to be kept home to help out on household chores.


Safety and protection from violence and abuse in the home and the broader community.


Empowerment tools (skills training) for long term survival.


Addressing ‘cultural’ acceptance of an inferior status of African women and children.



Because ultimately; culture does not over-ride human rights within a democracy.  There are many cases where religious and cultural interpretation and practice are in conflict with human rights concepts.  However, as signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Human Rights always take precedence. 

News in South Africa

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