Protect your children

Just last week, there were three attempted abductions in the area around my daughter’s school. Suddenly there were a flurry of WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts and inboxes about being extra viglilant with your children.

It made me feel like my behaviour has been justified. You see, I’m an overprotective mom. I know I am. I’ve been called paranoid to my face, I’ve been told I’m over-reacting when it comes to my child’s safety and that I need to calm down. I’ve been told that by legal professionals and by other parents.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been a journalist for so long and have had to bear witness to so many stories about children who are abused over the years, or whether it’s because I have had to play counselor to some of my female students who have been abused and raped, but I have a constant fear about my daughter’s safety.

My studies on gender have not helped allay my fears either, in fact, the more people I speak to, the more horrified I become at what people are capable of doing to each other.

We live in an unsafe time. Perhaps in the past these abuses against children did not happen, perhaps they did and people just did not speak about them. One thing is for certain, just 10 years ago people did not have access to information the way we do now. That is why old notions, such as “children need to be seen and not heard,” need to change immediately.

Technology has radically changed the way in which we share information, and just as easy as it is for you to search for the latest news, someone else can search for images of your child. Add just a little bit of technological savvy and you have someone who can gain access to your personal information at the click of a button.

There have also been letters from the police, from schools, as well as online videos warning of children being snatched while the parents are holding on to them.

It’s not rocket science, it really isn’t. Know where your children are and keep them close to you at all times. Make sure they know who is safe to collect them from school and if they aren’t sure, they need to have a safe word. If you can put a password on your phone, you can teach your child to use a password with strangers too.

His holiness the 14th Dalai Lama said that much of our problems today are because we have begun to place value on things instead of people. He is a very insightful man and I tend to agree with him on this one. A recent investigation by Carte Blanche showed how easily children can be stolen, for a meagre R5000 payment, only to be abused, enslaved and drugged so adults can make money off of them.

As parents we have one responsibility to our children; to ensure they have a safe space where they can learn to become the best people they can be. There are going to be times when we can’t protect them, but every day is an opportunity to ensure that we do our best to try to keep them safe.

If you live in the Border-Kei area and have any concerns regarding your child, need advice or just someone to talk to, contact the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre on 043 743 9169. You don’t have to be a woman to get help, and they can direct you to legal aid as well as counselling and support services.

By Keshina Thaver