The Children's Rights Project (CRP)
The Children's Rights Project (CRP) of the Community Law Centre (CLC) is one of a number of projects at the Centre which focus on the needs and status of particularly vulnerable groups such as women, children, people with disabilities and people living in extreme poverty.
Ms Bridgitte Mabandla established the CRP during the period in which the CLC was playing an active part in the multi-party negotiations that led to the interim Constitution. In this capacity, staff members and associated practitioners in the field were able to influence the content of Section 30 of the interim Constitution (children's rights), which subsequently became the more comprehensive Section 28, according children substantive civil, political, and economic rights.
From the outset, the focus of the CRP was on marginalized and vulnerable children. In addition to contributing to the process of formulating children's rights within the South African interim and final Constitutions, the work of the CRP has concentrated on the goal of law reform within the juvenile system and the reform of laws concerning child care and protection.
By hosting international seminars on these themes, publishing reports and studies, and soliciting the participation and opinion of children themselves, the CRP has played an important role in transforming and improving the legal landscape for South African children. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done.
The programmes of the Children's Rights Project are divided into the following areas:
- Juvenile Justice
- Children in especially difficult circumstances
- The legal position of children in family life or alternative care
- Structures of governance relevant to children's rights
- Constitutional law and legislative law reform
The activities in these areas include:
Academic and field research
A considerable volume of ground-breaking research in the relatively new field of children's rights has been undertaken or published by the CRP. Commissioned work and submissions to government and parliament have promoted the new trends and practices found internationally with regard to implementing and monitoring children's rights. The CPR aims to work closely with other practitioners in the field of children's rights, both locally and internationally, and actively seeks the involvement and contribution of members in civil society, academia, and government.
Improving the status and quality of life of children in South Africa is an essential component in the transition from apartheid rule. In order to sustain and continue this transitional process, the staff at the CRP interact and work extensively with the Law Commission, relevant government departments, Parliament, the media, and organisations working with children, including community groups, national and international NGOs.
A senior researcher of the project is currently co-ordinating the Child Justice Alliance as part of its advocacy activities. The Child Justice Alliance is a network of NGOs, CBOs, academics and individuals who have come together to ensure that the Child Justice Bill is passed by parliament. To join either as a partner or friend of the Alliance and for more information on the Alliance kindly visit the website.
Conferences and seminars
The need to build and sustain networks within and outside of South Africa, to exchange information, create cross-sectoral linkages, and generate interest, is seen as a vital component of the work carried out at the CRP. Ground-breaking workshops and conferences have had a major influence in fostering a greater understanding of the issues and concepts relating to children's rights. The role of primary care-givers in the context of child support grants, for instance, have thus been recognised in recent legislative initiatives.
Training and teaching
Capacity building of practitioners working in NGOs and CBOs, social workers, probation officers, and other government officials working with children is essential if the reforms in law and policies are to be effectively realised on the ground. As international and domestic law is implemented in South Africa, knowledge of these changes and the implications they have for children are provided through workshops and courses offered by the CPR.
Evaluations and impact assessments
As the legal reform process moves forward and is implemented, the success or failure of these initiatives needs to be closely monitored. The CRP has played an important role in the reform process, providing input to and proposing draft legislation and conducting evaluations and assessments of prison conditions, projects, and judicial procedure, amongst others.