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December 5, 2017 - The chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission says one of the issues to address while seeking alternatives to corporal punishment is how children are raised and whose values are valued.

The commission's Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva was speaking during a dialogue in Johannesburg on Tuesday on alternatives to corporal punishment.

"The issue of how we raise our children and whose values are valued is a debate that we should have in a country that is so diverse and coming from a past like ours," she said.

This comes after a ruling by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg earlier this year that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement is not in line with the Constitution, and no longer applied in South Africa law.

This decision meant South Africa joined other African countries including Kenya, South Sudan, Tunisia, and the Republic of Congo to deem corporal punishment illegal in all settings, including in the justice system, schools and at home.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the commission had always promoted and protected the rights of children.

"We are of the view that, as we protect the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities, the rights of the children in those communities are also protected. We do not believe that children should be seen as being outside their communities," she said.

"We have stood up against the abuse of children within cultural and religious communities when there was a need to do so. We have taken very unpopular decisions in our quest to protect children," Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.

"So for us, issues of children are at the core of the work we do and we have never allowed communities to abuse women, children and young people in the name of culture and religion."

She added that South Africa had long been a signatory to the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child, which looked out for the best interests of the child.

"I dare say the most important thing for every child is to be taught what is right and wrong, to be given boundaries and be taught about consequences of not doing the right thing," she said.

"Basically, children thrive on discipline," Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.

However, she made it clear that discipline didn't mean corporal punishment, but that the argument had long been whether to change the law first, or to first teach parents that corporal punishment was not the answer.

"The way the whole issue of corporal punishment in the home has been handled has shown that the rights of the silent millions may easily be overridden by a few who have the voice," she said.

Source: News24

December 12, 2017 - Raija-Leena Punamäki, PhD, is a psychologist and professor at the University of Tampere, Finland. Punamäki’s basic research question concerns how traumatic experiences—especially those related to family and maternal trauma—influence the parent-infant relationship, in addition to the infant’s emotional and cognitive development. In an interview with the Jacobs Foundation, she explains how maternal prenatal exposure to weapons-related heavy metals influences child development.

What fascinates you about your research?

I have been working for a very long time on how war and traumatic experiences are reflected in family relationships and children’s development. Our current work mainly examines the first year of a human being’s life and the mother’s wellbeing during the transition to parenthood in extremely traumatic situations, especially during a war. Intuitively, you may assume that when a baby is born in the midst of shelling or bombing or in a refugee camp, his or her future prospects must be terrible. However, what is fascinating is the amount of human resilience displayed in spite of these circumstances. The developmental psychologists often say that the human being creates his or her first early environment. Thus, the first environment is not bad or good, but the first interaction between the mother and infant is always adaptive. This is especially the case during wartime.

What are your most important findings?

The parents and children with whom we have been working are war-affected. We don’t call them traumatized because it’s not self-evident that people are traumatized even if the environment is very traumatic. We have performed research and psychosocial interventions with preschool and school-age children, and it was the war-affected parents bringing up the question of newborns’ health. It seems that all mothers in war-torn areas are highly aware of the dangerous impact of toxic elements in modern weapons. This was the motivation for us to find out how common the exposure, the load, and the level of toxic heavy metals are in newborns and expectant mothers. We also examined how much the exposure affects the infant’s development and wellbeing during the first year of life.

Thus far, the findings are not very encouraging. We found that the toxic load of most heavy metals was higher in the mother’s body compared to the standard levels found in mothers in countries during peacetime. The mother’s toxic metal levels were related to her newborn’s heavy metal levels, which was measured using hair samples. The family’s war experiences were measured by self-reports and by taking pictures of the destruction of the houses to ensure that the information is reliable. Furthermore, the trauma of toxic metal exposure was impossible to separate from maternal psychological war trauma. In other words, the maternal prenatal war exposure affects the unborn child in multiple ways.

It is necessary to increase awareness of the influence of metal accumulation on reproductive health and knowledge about the mechanisms for how metals are passaging into infants in utero. We must understand the potential future impacts of these factors on maternal and infant health. Women are highly vulnerable to the toxic byproducts from modern weapons when facing home destruction, shelling, and bombing because they come into frequent contact with shelling debris in war-torn areas.

We have read in your papers that you do research on lullabies in war-torn areas. What exactly do lullabies tell you about child development?

Lullabies are one example of the resources that a culture can bring to the early relationships between parents and children. Hearing the parent’s voice, singing, and verbal communication may be especially important in life-threatening situations. Lullabies are soothing. Furthermore, mothers also sing to engage the infant and use folk songs as a socialization tool. We studied the maternal voice quality and emotional tone of the lullabies and found that a positive tone is associated with favourable infant development outcomes. The voice quality of the singer is a good indicator of the mother-infant interaction.

Where do you see practical implications for your work?

The main aim is to apply the latest knowledge of infant psychology to maternity care in war-afflicted areas. During our data collection in Gaza, Palestine, both mothers and fieldworkers wished for more psychosocial elements in maternity care during wartime situations. Together with Kurdish cooperation, we are implementing treatments to support the mother-infant interaction among those who are suffering and as a preventative measure for war-affected families.

Raija-Leena Punamäki, PhD, is a psychologist and professor at the University of Tampere, Finland, and received her PhD from the University of Helsinki. Her research has focused on child development and mental health in conditions of war and military violence, psychosocial interventions for war-affected children as well as rehabilitation of survivors of torture and human right abuse. Her current research focuses developmental aspects of trauma impacts, including infancy and adolescence, as well as family dynamics. The special interest is in the role of maternal exposure to the toxic environment of war trauma in pre-, peri- and post-natal period in child development. The research and intervention work has been conducted in close cooperation with Palestinian, Kurdish and Nordic colleagues. She is a member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, the Nordic Network for Research on Refugee Children, and Finnish Psychologist for Social Responsibility.

Source: Jacobs Foundation

Kampala, 1 December 2017- The Federal Government of Somalia and federal member states want swift action taken in addressing the use of child soldiers in armed conflict in the country.

Key representatives from the two levels of government meet in Kampala, Uganda to brainstorm on how to prevent the recruitment of; and use of children in armed conflict.

The one-week forum held from 26 – 30 November 2017, under the auspices of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), provides an avenue for various government departments including the security sector to interface alongside AMISOM military, in coming up with tangible solutions to the problem.

The recruitment and use of children is not only a key security concern but also has the potential to continue to undermine efforts aimed at bringing lasting peace to Somalia.

“AMISOM is doing this as part of its transitional arrangements – that is as we transit from activities being managed and overseen by AMISOM, we would like to prepare the Somali people to manage these programmes by themselves,” the Deputy Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (DSRCC), for Somalia Simon Mulongo, said in his remarks during the official opening of the meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting discussed among other issues, the importance of sensitizing the general public on the disadvantages of child recruitment in armed conflict, policy and law enforcement, that could deter the practice.

“As AMISOM, our aim is to have a smooth transitional exit strategy, but we cannot just leave a vacuum. We have to ensure that the Federal Government and Federal member states continue to work together especially with regards to dealing with the prevention of the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in the conflict in Somalia,” Mr Musa Gbow, AMISOM’s Child Protection Advisor and coordinator of the workshop said.

Gbow emphasized the importance of coming up with a roadmap that will be translated into a policy document and implemented at both the federal and regional level.

“We have learnt a lot of important things from this seminar and its outcome has a huge impact on us, the Somali participants. We nicknamed the seminar the (Birmageeda) organization for the vulnerable. We have appointed a chairperson and our plan is to have coordination between those in Puntland, South West State, Jubbaland and those in Mogadishu,” Ms. Fatumah Abdirahman Duhulow, the Minister of Human Rights in HirShabelle State remarked at the end of the one-week forum.

The Kampala forum which ended yesterday, was supported by the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, and is part of AMISOM’s mandate, to contribute to capacity of institutions in Somalia.

Source: AMISOM

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