President Jacob Zuma has called on communities to expose and report all those who abuse children.
"Let us be vigilant and expose those who abuse children. Let us work with law enforcement agencies to prevent such occurrences by proactively reporting suspicious behaviour," said Zuma, speaking at the launch of Child Protection Week in Galeshewe, Kimberley on Sunday.
He said the police and the courts were empowered under the Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Offences Act and the Children's Act to arrest, prosecute and convict perpetrators of violence against women and children.
"The perpetrators must face the full might of the law," he said
Zuma appealed to communities to help children who are in distress and those that are living in extreme poverty. He said communities must work together in raising them.
"We have to work together to protect children in distress, children who suffer neglect, abuse or exploitation and children who live in extreme poverty and for whom life still remains a struggle despite the progress made since the dawn of freedom," he said.
Zuma urged members of society to familiarise themselves with the Children's Act. "We must all make an effort to know and teach our children the Act," he said.
"It is important for children to know the Children's Act. It is important for children to know the law, the ultimate responsibility rests with us all as adults, particularly parents, teachers and caregivers," he said.
The Children's Act, which came into effect in April 2010 and is administered by the Department of Social Development, sets out the principles relating to the care and protection of children, and defines the related parental responsibilities and rights.
Some of the objectives of the Children's Act include promoting the preservation and strengthening of families; giving effect to certain constitutional rights of children; giving effect to the Republic's obligations concerning the well-being of children in terms of international instruments binding on the Republic and making provision for structures, services and means for promoting and monitoring the sound physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional and social development of children, among others.
Zuma said government was doing its part to ensure the safety of children. "Government is using its focus on five priorities to prioritise children. Those are education, health, rural development, creating decent work and the fight against crime," he said.
He said about eight million children received nutritious meals daily from government's school feeding scheme to improve concentration and performance in school.
He also emphasised the need for a good family life, saying this could assist in dealing with the many social ills.
"We must invest in a better society in the way we raise children. We must promote the positive values of ubuntu and respect. Our children must know that they have to respect themselves, their parents, peers and every other member of society," he said.
Child Protection Week started with a visit to a child-headed family in Donkerhoek, Galeshewe where the President got first-hand experience of how three girls were coping after losing their parents and grandparents some years ago.
After talking to the girls, Zuma said it was indeed a touching situation. "I thank the neighbours for helping these children. This challenge needs more efforts from all of us," he said, referring to child-headed households.
The eldest, Kealeboga Pico, 23, told BuaNews that she wished to thank government for stepping in and assisting with food. Government has also promised to send them to school and ensure they receive a social grant.
Asked how they were coping without parents, she said: "It is not easy, it's difficult."
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who accompanied the President, called on communities to assist child-headed households and promised government would continue to reach the poor though social grants.
More than 10 million children benefit from social grants in South Africa.
School children from various parts of the province attended the event in large numbers. One of them, Thabo Moeletsi, a Grade 4 pupil from a local school, told BuaNews that he appreciated government's commitment in protecting children.
"I thank the government for protecting and giving us food at school," he said.
During the Child Protection Week, government calls on people to wear a green ribbon in support of the campaign. The green ribbon demonstrates commitment and support to protecting the rights of children.
The theme for this year's campaign is: "Working Together to Protect Children".
The theme, adopted by the National Child Care and Protection Forum, upholds the government's commitments to child protection, in partnership with civil society. The campaign will emphasise the responsibility of everyone to create a safe and secure environment for our children.
Also at the launch event were Cabinet ministers, provincial MECs from Northern Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.