ALWAYS INCLUDE CHILDREN’S VOICES IN HEALTH ISSUES INVOLVING THEM
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a Missed Opportunity to Cape Argus for an article that fails to access children when reporting the issue of mental health treatment for children and adolescents in the Western Cape.
The article titled, “Over 90% mental health treatment gap for children and adolescents in the Western Cape” (07/10/2022) reports on an annual Learning and Partnership event by Waves for Change held in Cape Town ahead of World Mental Health Awareness Day.
As the title demonstrates, the whole event focused on the challenges children and adolescents are facing when dealing with mental health. The journalist mentions the treatment gap issue for children and therapies that are available as preventative mental health solutions. It is unfortunate that the journalist chose to only use government officials and NGO representatives as sources and not children.
Mental health among children is becoming a major challenge globally and South Africa is not exempt from that reality. Indeed, according to UNICEF 65% of young people with mental health related issues do not seek help in South Africa. Such kind of statistics should be enough to make the journalist understand the necessity to interview and include children’s voices in the article especially that the event and issue being reported on focusses on children. Children’s perspectives enrich stories especially where challenges and solutions are being discussed such as is the case in the story above.
Further, children cannot be left out of institutional responses to issues they face especially when the children are capable of adding their voice to the issue.
Journalists should know that ignoring children’s voices when covering issues that affect them is a violation of their rights outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, Article 13) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC, Article 7). It is critical to mention that both were ratified by South Africa respectively in 1995 and 2000.
Furthermore, MMA’s 2021 media monitoring results on reporting on children reveal that only 7% of children’s voices were heard between May and September 2021 in media coverage of them. It is obvious this article published by Cape Argus contributes toperpetuating the stereotype that a child’s voice is not important.
We urge Cape Argus to continue reporting on stories focusing on children’s health and ensuring that the children are given a chance to share their perspectives.
Written by Jacques Ndong
Edited by Lister Namumba
A missed opportunity is a story in which children should have been accessed but are not.
 https://au.int/sites/default/files/treaties/36804-treaty african_charter_on_rights_welfare_of_the_child.pdf