The South African Child Gauge™ is a flagship publication of the Children’s Institute that provides an annual snapshot of the status of children in South Africa. By drawing on the latest research evidence, the Child Gauge presents a set of plain language essays on a different theme each year, alongside an update on legislative developments that affect children’s rights. It also includes datasets that track various socio-economic indicators related to children, and is often accompanied by a pull-out poster-map on theme-related data.
The Child Gauge aims to track South Africa’s progress in realising children’s rights. Annual themes are chosen to inform, focus – and sometimes direct – national dialogue on an issue which has particular impact on the rights of children in South Africa.
The first issue was published in 2005, and focused on children and HIV/AIDS. The publication was released on World AIDS Day and received considerable attention from the news media – a trend to date.
The second issue tackled the theme of children and poverty. It drew extensively on the Means to Live research, which investigated the targeting aspect of a range of poverty alleviation programmes that benefit children. The publication was released a week before the President's State of the Nation address, and informed a good deal of media coverage on the situation of poor children – a timely focus since the ruling party declared 2006 the year to intensify the fight against poverty and unemployment.
At the time of planning the third issue, a new Children’s Act was about to be implemented to give effect to children’s constitutional rights to social services, family care or alternative care and protection from abuse and neglect. This informed the theme of the 2007/2008 issue, with the aim to communicate the key features of the new Act, and to flag its main implementation challenges. This issue was used extensively at a Department of Social Development conference on the Children’s Act shortly after it was released.
In 2008/2009, the focus shifted to children’s right to meaningful access to basic education. Edited by Professor of Education, Shirley Pendlebury, it was the first Child Gauge that included essays by researchers from other academic institutions. It was released at a seminar on children’s right to health and education in partnership with the South African Holocaust Foundation.
The fifth issue concentrated on child health. Edited by Emeritus Professor of Child Health, Maurice Kibel, it included contributions from leading academics and policy-makers, including the Minister of Health. The publication was produced in partnership with UNICEF South Africa. The join launch received print, radio, television and online media coverage amounting to the value of over R5 million.
The sixth theme was ‘Children as citizens: Participating in social dialogue’, again published in collaboration with UNICEF South Africa. Due to the participation theme, local children from different organisations for the first time participated extensively in the making of the book. They produced artwork for use, designed an accompanying poster, peer-reviewed a child-friendly summary and participated in the public launch and media outreach. The launch attracted high-profile speakers such as the Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities and Mampela Ramphele. Three South African musicians who are UNICEF ambassadors promoted the theme on Twitter, and one of them, Danny K, attended the launch to discuss with the children their experiences of participation.
The seventh issue focused on children and inequality and included a reflection on the theme by the National Planning Commission's Trevor Manuel, who also delivered the keynote address as the launch in partnership with UNICEF South Africa. News media coverage continued for 10 days running and amounted to the value of just under R1.6 million. For the first time, the key findings were digested into an accompanying policy brief.
The 2013 issue focuses on early childhood development.
The continued publication of the South African Child Gauge was made possible by the ELMA Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, UNICEF South Africa, and the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (a partnership programme of the Presidency, Republic of South Africa, and the Delegation of the European Union) for updates to the ‘Children Count’ section. In 2013, Ilifa Labantwana contributed to the early childhood development issues.
Project team: Charmaine Smith and Lori Lake in collaboration with different researchers each year.