How Nedbank Has Worked to Protect Children's Rights for the Past 13 Years
These programmes are making sure that no child is left behind in the Sustainable Development Goals.
By Lerato Mogoatlhe
"Any country, any society which does not care for its children is no nation at all," Nelson Mandela once famously declared. Beyond being a call to action, the statement is also a reminder that we all have a moral duty to protect children's rights.
Nedbank heeded this call in 2005 when it launched the its Children's Affinity in support of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. The programme has raised more than R82 million for four programmes aimed at meeting development goals that speak specifically to the urgent needs of children.
In line with Nelson Mandela's vision of creating a world that nurtures and protects children, Nedbank continues to invest in initiatives that promote health, education, and access to opportunities for all children.
A Healthy Start
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 19.9 million children under the age of one worldwide were not immunised fully in 2017. Around 60% of these children were from 10 countries, including South Africa — even though the Department of Health offers free immunisation at all government clinics.
"We research and address the many issues associated with child survival and health during the first 1,000 days," explains Shadi Nyokong, the manager of the Child Survival and Development Programme at the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. "It's of critical focus for South Africa, where a shocking 100 out of 1,000 babies are not surviving to their second birthday."
One of the main reasons is lack of access to health facilities, especially in rural areas. As part of the programme, Nedbank funds community health care workers to ensure that children remain in health care and that there is greater access to quality services. Supported is also training clinics on data management systems — the aim is to ensure that children complete their vaccination. It is with the first 1,000 days of life in mind that Nedbank is launching #VaxTheNation, a campaign that aims to shine a light on the importance of immunisation and providing life-saving vaccines from the time a child is born.
The campaign also aims to fast-track immunisation by removing all barriers that prevent access, whether it's location, the economic status of families, or the mental health of mothers and carers. "When a mother leads a poverty-stricken life, it can detract from her ability to be emotionally available to her baby, which has a detrimental effect on the child's development," says Nyokong.
However, life-saving primary health care goes far beyond immunisation — it has to enhance the socioeconomic, cultural, and health factors that contribute to mother and child mental and physical health. Nyokong points out that a high number of women experience anxiety and feelings of sadness or depression during pregnancy and after birth, which affects their baby.
"They need to know that they are not alone and that they need help to cope, which is all part of the project's family-and community-strengthening strategy," she adds. "Sound nutrition and the growing of fresh, healthy vegetables is another part, as it is critical that mothers eat healthily during the first 1,000 days. By their second birthday a baby's brain has reached 80% of its adult weight. If undernourished or if the mother does not eat healthily or uses drugs and alcohol, the baby's growth and brain development are stunted."
Child Safety and Protection
Children spend more time in schools than any other place. It is also in these institutions that they experience different forms of violence, like corporal punishment, bullying, and sexual abuse. The Safe Schools programme breaks the cycle of violence by promoting healthy relationships between educators, learners, and parents. It also supports schools in creating safer environments, and partnering with initiatives that create safety nets for children in and out of school to ensure that perpetrators of bullying, sexual abuse, and corporal punishment are brought to book.
South Africa's high unemployment rates have hit young people the hardest, with the youth making up 52% of the unemployed population. This puts young people at an even greater risk of turning to crime and substance abuse. The Youth Leadership programme recognises that the solution to youth unemployment goes beyond empowering young people with job skills. Young people also need to be change agents and lead initiatives that will help them design sustainable solutions that address their concerns, challenges, needs, and aspirations. The programme's focus areas are youth leadership, civic participation, children's rights and youth entrepreneurship. The programme partners with businesses, municipalities, and other institutions to facilitate and expand access to funding and other opportunities meant for young people.
When families and communities experience extreme poverty, the likelihood of young people becoming economically active becomes significantly reduced. The Sustainable Livelihoods Â Programme was introduced in 2009 to address poverty experienced by families in areas that have a high rate of unemployment and low production. The project helps communities to work their way out of poverty through self-help groups. These encourage savings mobilisation programmes and income-generating activities. They also offer psychosocial support and links to government structures to provide necessary documentation for children, such as birth certificates and social services and requirements to help children in need.
By removing barriers that prevent access to primary health care, and creating safer communities and youth economic participation through these programmes, Nedbank is ensuring that no child is left behind.