by Philippa Cross who would rather be outdoors than in, alone than in a crowd. She prefers dogs to cats, with a major leaning towards bulldogs. She hopes to win the Pulitzer prize for her yet unpublished novel. 

If you have read anything I’ve written before, you will have recognised that I try to see the funny side of most things. Sense of humour is essential if you wish to survive motherhood. It is even more essential if you wish to survive life in South Africa. Since I am a mother of 2 boys, living in South Africa, I laugh as loudly and often as I can. If I don’t, I will most certainly cry. And drink, more than the allotted 2 units a week or whatever is deemed healthy by experts these days.

So, as I pondered the subject of human rights, what they were, what it meant to have them as human beings, why we needed to write them down and talk about them, why we have a day dedicated to them at all, and where the children fit in to the whole subject, I got myself thoroughly depressed. When I look around, I see the rights of people, children especially, being so overlooked, so violated, so disregarded, that I can not laugh. I simply can not find a funny angle.

How do I teach my children about human rights when we see a mother and child begging at almost every robot we stop at, when nothing that I tell my precious children bears any truth in the reality of daily life in South Africa?



The depressing truth is that as a mother, I’m beyond teaching my sons what human rights are. I’m too busy making sure that the gross violations of human rights that occur every day under our noses, especially to the children in our country, simply don’t happen to my boys.

Instead, I pray daily for my children, earnestly, and without ceasing. I pray for their protection, for their health, for their safety, on our roads, and in the hands of their care-givers. I watch them like a hawk, lest they are kidnapped from under my nose by child-traffickers or muti-makers. I teach them how to handle blood if they are faced with another child’s injury at school, because I want to protect them from HIV.

I tell them they are special, and that their bodies are their own. I respect them, and I teach them to respect others. I teach them that we don’t hurt animals, and that the planet is our home and all life should be respected. We recycle.

I do all of this, because I know that although they may have rights on paper, in theory, no-one will enforce them when I’m not there. So I dedicate my life not to teaching them about their rights, and the rights of others, but to ensuring that their rights are upheld. I hope that by example, they will learn what human rights are, and that when they have their chance, they will uphold them more vehemently than we have managed to.

A glass of wine and giggle anyone?

Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids

Send this to a friend