An exploration of the efficacy of the Namibian child protection system in responding to violence against children
AbstractThe UN Secretary General‘s Study on Violence against Children approached child protection systems from the perspectives of human rights, public health and child protection. A global agenda to protect children emphasised the urgency of country level action with targets for governments. The UNCRC and the ACRWC underpin the delivery of high quality essential services to all children. There is increasing recognition worldwide, as well as in Namibia, that the protection of children cannot be effectively achieved through fragmented, issue-specific programmes which results in ineffective programming: this is neither sustainable nor able to reach children who are in need of protection. The purpose of this study was to explore the efficacy of the Namibian Child Protection System in responding to violence against children. The study considered the child’s journey through the system in order to provide recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the system. A qualitative, explorative design and a phenomenological approach were used in this study. The theoretical frameworks that were employed are the Child Rights Based Approach, Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems’ Approach and the Systems Approach. The target population consisted of children and parents with experience of the child protection system, as well as key experts and development partners. Non probability purposive sampling methods were used, and the primary data gathering tools were semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. The researcher generated categories and sub-categories related to the central research objectives and the semi-structured interview guide. Furthermore, the researcher linked units of information to a participant and adhered to a specific set of ethical standards. This study revealed significant strengths in Namibia’s Child Protection System, such as the existence of a robust legislative framework, sound partnerships and the existence of specialised police units, shelters, child friendly courts and child witness support services. This study found that Namibia’s child protection system was still responsive to issue specific programming; prevention was not a priority and the programme did not involve the meaningful participation of children. The majority of participants interviewed were concerned that Woman and Child Protection Units only existed in regional towns and that children from villages and smaller towns still had to travel vast distances to access services. The same applied to the child witness support programme, child-friendly courts and shelters that only existed in certain regions, resulting in the majority of children having no or minimum access to protection services. Conclusions focus around the pressing need for an integrated, comprehensive child protection system with adequate capacity and resources to prevent and respond to violence against children in a coordinated manner. The overall impression drawn from the results is that the informal system does not form part of the current child protection system. Significant limitations in the system do not allow effective services to children. The results of this study enabled the researcher to develop recommendations and a proposed action plan to inform and guide key ministries with the aim of developing an Integrated Child Protection System in Namibia. The results can mobilise political will, initiate programmatic action and can guide the provision of quality services as part of the national child protection system. The results can also assist the government in promulgating critical outstanding legislation to improve the protection of Namibian children.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work