The objectives of the forum were:
- To produce a "memorandum of action" which summarises the issues raised by the children and ensures a commitment from decision-makers to address these issues.
- To increase awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on children in South Africa
- To provide feedback on the implementation of policies and programmes designed to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on children.
- To provide input into the development of national policy and legislation relevant to children and families made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
- To develop the capacity and will of key role players to engage children and youth in decision making processes at all levels.
Over the course of the 3 day event, the children discussed how HIV/AIDS effects them, the problems they face on a daily basis, who supports them, and how they cope. In preparation for their meeting with decision makers on the final day of the forum, they discussed what government and members of parliament could do to help them and their families.
Representatives from national government departments and ministries and from the national parliament were given the opportunity to listen to what the children had to say and to engage with the children in meaningful discussions around the impact of HIV/AIDS on children.
The issues that were raised by the children, according to forum representatives, reflect the poor implementation of existing policies and demand an immediate and practical response from decision makers and service providers. The children's life stories, artwork, essays, poetry, and drama will continue to inform the work of the Children's Institute in their mission to ensure informed decision-making and to promote the realisation of children's rights in South Africa.
Some of the things the children had to say are the following:
- The children spoke about how they face verbal abuse and discrimination on a regular basis - in schools, at health care facilities, and in their communities.
- Sexual abuse is a major concern to children who attended the forum.
- Some spoke of their suffering after the death of their mothers.
- Many of the children who attended the forum are caregivers and breadwinners in their households.
- Many spoke of feelings of sadness, helplessness, and desperation.
- On transport: "The clinics are too far from our houses and we have no money for transport."
- On housing: "I need a house to stay in because the one we stay in now is a mud one and not comfortable during the winter and rainy season."
- On basic services: "Squatter areas are unhygienic with no running water or sanitation." "We need water - because water comes out only once a week."
- On violence: "I feel bad because I don't have a mother or a father. My mother died of AIDS. My father is dead - he was shot."
- Some also spoke about their strengths and the people and things that help them cope.
- They identified messages for others: "Help the kids that are suffering because their parents have died. Look after them. Help them with food if they need food. Give them something to drink." "Stop abusing and raping children." "People must stop gossiping, hating other people and making fun."
Coordinated by The Children's Institute, UCT In collaboration with: Soul City, Children's Resource Centre, the Dept of Health & the Joint Monitoring Committee on Children, Youth and Persons with Disability. Funded by: the Bernard van Leer Foundation (Holland) and the Dept of Health. Children's research facilitated by: Clacherty and Associates.
Preliminary Report, September 27 2001.