As South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day on Friday, 21 March, it's significant to note that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), an international treaty that close to 193 countries are guided by in order to meet the basic human rights of children. South Africa is one of the signatories and works very closely with the United Nations Children's Fund - commonly known as UNICEF, to adhere to its obligations towards meeting children's rights. As part of efforts to mark this anniversary and to highlight the continued global significance of the CRC, a number of initiatives are being undertaken worldwide by UNICEF and other organisations that are involved with children's rights issues.
Santam, South Africa's largest short-term insurer has partnered with UNICEF South Africa this year with its longstanding and flagship corporate social investment initiative entitled the Santam Child Art Project. Promoting love of art among children, the project is one of the oldest and most popular CSI programmes in the country. The project hosts an annual national art competition and the theme for this year is'Children's rights'. Santam encourages schools from across South Africa to enter as the winning artworks will be featured in the 2015 edition of Santam's prestigious calendar which will be distributed to a large network that includes Santam clients and UNICEF South Africa stakeholders.
"We are excited about the partnership with UNICEF to put the spotlight on children's rights. It will be important to see how learners interpret this complex and essential theme through their artwork this year. Art enhances a child's ability to interact with, and interpret the world around them. It has the ability to cross cultural and linguistic barriers, and in South Africa it gives us the tools to be able to find and speak to each other," says Tersia Mdunge, CSI manager at Santam. In its 2012/2013 South Africa annual report, UNICEF reports that "significant socio-economic disparities underlie the challenges faced by children in South Africa. The gap between rich and poor is vast, and child poverty is far higher than that of the general population".
But despite the challenges, the report acknowledges South Africa's gains, particularly in children's access to health and education, and progress specifically in the reduction of the child mortality rate, as well as the value of the child support grant in reducing child poverty. Herve Ludovic de Lys, Head of UNICEF in South Africa, says "Collaborating with UNICEF around the theme of children's rights is an excellent example of the positive role that business can play in championing the rights of children". While the Santam Child Art Project is aimed at all children, Santam also strives to reach children that are situated in disadvantaged communities. To this end, Santam partnered with The Frank Joubert Art Centre in 2011 on The Ibhabhathane Project to strengthen arts education at grassroots level.
"At Santam we believe that teaching art is not necessarily about training future artists, it is about giving young people the self-esteem and creative thinking abilities to better deal with South Africa's socio-economic challenges," concludes Mdunge. Since its inception in 1963 more than 80 500 children have participated in the Santam Child Art project so far. The programme has evolved into a multifaceted national project which includes initiatives such as informal art classes, Santam's own annual art calendar and the training of creative art teachers (Grade 4-6) nationally. Last year's Child Art competition drew 4 773 entries from 221 schools. Entries for this year's competition are open until 30 June 2014. For entry details visit www.santam.co.za
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. More details about UNICEF South Africa is available at www.unicef.org.za