Childhood´s Board visits South Africa

Last week, Childhood’s Board – along with our founder, Queen Silvia – visited South Africa. The Board wanted to meet the passionate people and grassroots organizations we support on the ground to see their everyday operations. “South Africa is a country with extremely high levels of violence and sexual abuse of children. It can be easy to give up. But we can see that the investments we’ve made in the country are making a real difference. Many of the projects we work with started as a small local initiative, and then scaled up and were able to spread to the national level,” says Paula Guillet de Monthoux, Secretary General of Childhood.  

Childhood has been active in South Africa since the beginning of the 2000s for a number of reasons. To name a few:

  • There are 18.5 million children in South Africa.
  • South Africa is an extremely violent society. 32% of all deaths in the country are the result of violence.
  • The incidence of sexual abuse in South Africa is among the highest in the world.
  • One out of three children (35.4%) in South Africa is a victim of sexual abuse at some stage of their childhood. The equivalent figure for Sweden is one out of five.

The Board met six organizations and initiatives on the ground:

Philisa Abafazi Bethu

Philisa Abafazi Bethu works in Lavender Hill, one of the most violent neighborhoods in Cape Town, a place where women and children are extremely vulnerable to violence and abuse and where gang wars flare up on a regular basis. The organization’s founder, Lucinda Evans, is a passionate local leader who helps abandoned children, abused women and children who are victims of sexual abuse.

Waves for Change

Children who grow up in vulnerable areas often experience several traumas, as violence is so prevalent in their everyday lives. Through Waves for Change, children can take part in a surf club, where they not only learn to master the waves but are also provided with tools to cope with their feelings and build healthy relationships. The aim of the surfing program is to attract independent young people at risk, who would otherwise be difficult to reach, and to use surfing to teach the children to feel connected to their bodies, which can help to reduce symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

James House

James House was originally an orphanage for boys. While taking care of these children, often from families with complex problems, James House identified a need to work preventively with entire families so that children did not need to be fostered and to develop initiatives that could stop the boys from continuing down the antisocial path they were on. Most of them had been, or were on their way to being, thrown out of school and risked getting caught up in gang activity and addiction. An important common denominator was that nearly all of the boys lacked a nurturing, positive father figure in their lives. The project Boy’s Best started as a small pilot project for 13- to 16-year-old boys who were exhibiting externalizing behavior. One important component was a start-up camp where every boy brought his father or a similar father figure. 

Seven Passes

Seven Passes was founded in 2008 in the village of Touwsranten and grew from concerns about the increasingly aggressive behavior among adolescents, high levels of school absenteeism and drop-out rates, and a desire to turn this trend around. Before partnering with Childhood, Seven Passes mostly provided homework help and other activities for children, including sports, music and drama. Seven Passes soon realized that the children’s challenges were much bigger than just help with homework. Many children in the neighborhood grew up with parents who seldom showed them love but instead raised them with harsh words and blows. This understanding, along with the knowledge that a safe and loving relationship with adults is an important factor for breaking the negative cycle of violence, led to the idea for the Warm Parenting project. The goal of the project is to implement and evaluate a combination of parent support programs in the neighborhood and thereby reduce the risk of violence against children. 

Institute for Security Studies, Dialog Forum

South Africa has extremely high levels of violence and sexual abuse of children. At the same time, there is progressive legislation that prescribes preventive work with children and families. There is also a large number of professional volunteer organizations and several universities with world-leading research in the area of violence against women and children. Today, there are a number of locally developed, evidence-based parent support programs – many of which were developed with support from Childhood – but they are often conducted at the local level by volunteer organizations that have neither the mandate nor the resources to expand the program to the national level. Dialog Forum was created as a way to fill these gaps.


Childhood’s project with Mamelani was phased out in the summer of 2018 after six years of partnership. From the beginning, the project supported 15 boys who lived on the street and thereafter were taken care of at a home for street children, The Homestead. The project ProSeed aims to offer young people an opportunity to live independently, to make positive life choices and to achieve their full potential. Instead of simply being “thrown out into the street” the day they become 18, with no network and no support, which previously often meant they began living on the streets and/or using drugs, they are now offered support and education during a period before and after the day of their 18th birthday.