The Children's Charter of South Africa
We, the delegates of the International Children's Summit held from 27
May to 1 June 1992, acting as representatives from the regions of
Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Southern Cape, Northern Cape, Boland,
Border, Midlands, Southern Natal, Northern Natal, Namaqualand, PWV,
Eastern Transvaal, Western Transvaal, Northern Transvaal, Northern
Orange Free State, Southern Orange Free State, Transkei and on behalf of
all the children of South Africa,
all children are created equal and are entitled to basic human
rights and freedoms and that all children deserve respect and special
care and protection as they develop and grow and
within South Africa, children have not been treated with respect
and dignity, but as a direct result of Apartheid have been subjected
to discrimination, violence and racism that has destroyed families and
communities and has disrupted education and social relationships and
at the present time, children have not been placed on the agenda of
any political party, or the existing government or within the CODESA
negotiations and are not given the attention that they deserve.
Taking into consideration the cultural values, languages, and
traditions of all the children and,
urgent need for attention to improving the life of children and
protecting their rights in every region, in particular those regions
which have been especially subjected to violence, political unrest and
Have agreed upon the following:
For the purposes of the charter, a child means any person under the
age of 18 years old, unless otherwise stated.
Children have been and continue to be abused, tortured, mistreated,
neglected and abandoned by the people of South Africa. Children are not
treated with the respect and dignity that every human being deserves,
but instead are subjected to violence, poverty, racism, and the
ignorance of adults. Children continue to suffer from the inequalities
of apartheid, especially in the area of education. Children do not
receive proper health and medical care and attention, yet do not have
the right to demand treatment. Children are arrested, tried without
lawyers and held in prisons.
Children are beaten and abused by the police and by gangs and other
adults. Children are the future leaders of tomorrow, but they are not
given the right to participate in consultations or negotiations about
their future. The government and other political parties have put
children last, not first.
We therefore set forth that all children of South Africa are entitled
to the following rights and protections:
All children have the right to protection and guarantees of all the
rights of the Charter and should not be discriminated against because of
his / her or his / her parents or family's colour, race, sex, language,
religion, personal or political opinion, nationality, disability or for
any other reason.
All political parties, the government, CODESA, the future government,
communities, families, and parents should do everything possible to
ensure that children are not discriminated against due to his/her
parents or family's colour, race, sex, language, religion, personal or
political opinion, nationality, disability or for any other reason.
All children have the right to a name and nationality as soon as they
All children have the right to express their own opinions and the
right to be heard in all matters that affect his / her rights and
protection and welfare.
All children have the right to be heard in courtrooms and hearings
affecting their future rights and protection and welfare and to be
treated with the special care and consideration within those courtrooms
and hearings which their age and maturity demands.
All children have the right to free legal representation if arrested.
All children have the right to participate in the government of the
country and special attention should be given to consultations with
children on their rights and situation.
All children have the right to freedom to practice their own
religion, culture or beliefs without fear.
All children have the right to be protected from all types of
physical, emotional, verbal, psychological, sexual, state, political,
gang, domestic, school, township and community, street, racial,
self-destructive and all other forms of violence.
All children have the right to freedom from corporal punishment at
school, from the police and in prisons, and at home.
All children have the right to be protected from neglect and
All children have the right to be protected from township and
political violence and to have "safe places" and to have
community centers where they can go for help and safety from violence.
All children have the right to be educated about child abuse and the
right to form youth groups to protect them from abuse.
All persons have the duty to report all violence against, abuse of
and neglect of any child to the appropriate authorities.
Children should not be used as shields or tools by the perpetrators
Children have the right to say no to violence.
The media has the duty to prevent the exploitation of children who
are victims of violence and should be prohibited from the promotion of
All children have the right to be protected from violence by the
police and in prisons.
Children should not be obligated or forced to follow adults in their
All children have the right to be free from torture, detention or any
other physical or emotional violence during Apartheid or at times of
unrest or war.
All children have the right to be protected from drug and alcohol
abuse by their parents, families and others and to be educated about
these forms of violence.
Children have the right to a special children's court and medical
facilities to protect them from violence.
Special groups and organizations should be formed within the
communities to protect and counsel victims of all types of violence.
No child should be held in prison or police cells at any time.
All children have the right to a safe, secure and nurturing family
and the right to participate as a member of that family.
All children have the right to love and affection from their parents
All children have the right to clothing, housing and a healthy diet.
All children have the right to clean water, sanitation and a clean
All children have the right to be protected from domestic violence.
All children who do not have a family should be provided with a safe
and secure place to live and clothing and nutritious food within the
community where they live.
All children have the right to free and equal, non-racial, non-sexist
and compulsory education within one department as education is a right
not a privilege.
All children have a right to education which is in the interest of
the child and to develop their talents through education, both formal
All teachers should be qualified and should treat children with
patience, respect and dignity. All teachers should be evaluated and
monitored to ensure that they are protecting the rights of the child.
Parents have the duty to become involved in their children's
education and development and to participate in their children's
education at school and at home.
All children have the right to play and to free and adequate sports
and recreational facilities so that children can be children.
All children have the right to participate in the evaluation and
upgrading of curriculum which respects all the traditions, cultures and
values of children in South Africa.
All children have the right to education on issues such as sexuality,
AIDS, human rights, history and background of South Africa and family
All children have the right to adequate educational facilities and
the transportation to such facilities should be provided to children in
difficult or violent situations.
All children have the right to be protected from child labour and any
other economic exploitation which endangers a child's mental, physical,
or psychological health and interferes with his / her education so that
he / she van develop properly and enjoy childhood.
All children, especially in rural areas, should be protected from
hard labour including farm, domestic or manual labour or any other type
All children have the right to be protected from prostitution and
sexual exploitation such as pornography.
There should be a minimum age of employment and no child should be
forced to leave school prior to the completion of matric for the
purposes of employment.
There should be regulations and restrictions on the hours and types
of work and penalties for those who violate these regulations.
All children have the right to be protected from child slavery and
from the inheritance of labour or employment from their parent or
No child should be forced to live on the streets.
Homeless children have the right to be protected from harassment and
abuse from police, security guards and all other persons and every
person has the duty to report any abuse or violence against children.
Homeless children have the right to a decent place to live, clothing
and a healthy diet.
Street children have the right to special attention in education and
Communities and families have a duty to protect their children from
becoming homeless and abandoned.
All persons should be made aware of the plight of homeless children
and should participate in programs which act to positively eradicate the
problem of homeless children.
The government has the duty and responsibility for homeless children.
We, the children of South Africa, therefore demand that:
The existing government, the African National Congress, the Pan
Africanist Congress, Inkatha Freedom Party, CODESA, the National Party,
the Democratic Party and all other parties presently involved in
negotiations acknowledge, adopt and support the Children's Charter via
the establishment of committees, working groups and commissions that
will ensure that children's rights will no longer be ignored in South
Africa and that children will be placed first on the agenda, not last.
Also, that these groups act to support existing children's structures
A children's representative or council of representatives should be
placed on CODESA, and within the existing and future governments.
Children have the right to participate in and be consulted with about
The future constitution and bill of rights includes special
provisions for children's care and protection and development.
The National Children's Committee (NCRC) and all other children's
structures and organizations, both domestic and international,
acknowledge, accept and support the Children's Charter in as many ways
That communities and regions act to acknowledge, adopt and support
the Children's Charter and ensure that the needs of their children are
addressed with urgency.
That the delegates of the Summit act to ensure that their regions,
communities, schools, families, adults and peers are informed about the
Children's Charter and that there is continuing evaluation about the way
forward to a culture of children's rights.
Children will no longer remain silent about their rights, but will
speak and even shout out about their needs and demands.
Approved on this the 1st day of June 1992.
About the 'Children's Charter'
Children Speak Out...
Molo Songololo had the unique opportunity to host the
"International Summit on The Rights of Children in South
Africa", which was held over 27th May to 1st June 1992 in Somerset
West, Cape Town. The summit at which the 'Children's Charter of South
Africa' was drawn up and adopted, has been a historical turning point in
realizing a culture of children's participation in child rights
The summit brought together over 200 children, between the ages of 12
and 16 years. Children came from 20 different regions all over South
Africa and were representative of race, class gender and disability. At
the summit children discussed the problems facing them and spoke out
about the continuing violations of human rights. They recognized that
Apartheid still affects them and that children are not treated with
respect and dignity.
"Where is the new South Africa you all talk about? Show us,
because we do not see it...!" was loudly heard throughout the
More importantly, the children drew up and adopted the first
'Children's Charter of South Africa'. The charter reflects the voices of
children and their desperate plea to be respected and consulted on
issues affecting them and their future. A number of unconventional
clauses, reflecting the demand of a diverse group of children are made
in various articles. These clauses are particularly challenging as they
mirror the experiences and feelings of children and what they want done
on Violence, Family Life, Health and Welfare, Education, Child Labour
and Homelessness. This makes the charter uniquely South African.
The children are demanding to be put first on the political agenda
not last, They are looking to the present negotiations to provide
answers to their cries . They recognize that the pending new
constitution and bill of rights, will have major implications for the
realization of the kind of rights set out in the charter. They resolved
that 'Children will no longer remain silent about their rights, but will
speak and even shout out their needs and demands.
Finally, the summit delegates must be commended for their courage,
leadership and commitment. South Africa can be proud of them for setting
the pace for children's rights. Molo Songololo challenges all people and
organizations to support the children, their charter and to help
contribute to realize Children's Rights in South Africa.
The summit was part of the 'International Conference on the Rights of
Children in South Africa' which followed on the l0th-13th June 1992. The
conference was hosted by the Community Law Centre of the University of
the Western Cape and focused developing policy on children's rights.
Both of these events were a result of the Harare Conference on Children,
Repression and Law in South Africa held in 1987.