It’s not often that one gets to read a full page feature article that succeeds in giving children a voice, allowing them to express their feelings and emotions about an issue that affects them.The Star’s feature, “Tug of War” (21/08/09, Verve Section, p. 18) by Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat, did just this, through using two case studies involving children who came from “broken” homes.
In the feature, Badat interviewed a therapist specialising in counselling children dealing with relationship breakdowns, and two of her young clients. She also spoke to the mother of one of the children.
The feature gave the two children a voice and pseudo names, Johnny (12) and Amy (17). The two children were given the opportunity to speak directly about their experiences and feelings.
While giving children the opportunity to speak for themselves is encouraged, it is also important to recognise that in some cases, this may not always be in the child’s best interests, and sensitivity is needed by the reporter in both accessing and interviewing children. Where issues such as divorce and abuse are concerned, this is particularly important.
Badat accessed the two children through their therapist, which should be commended. This ensured that both the children interviewed were receiving professional care and were prepared to talk about their experiences.
Protecting the children’s identities by using pseudonyms was in the children’s best interests. It enabled them to speak about their personal experiences while protecting their right to privacy and protecting them from negative repercussions they could be exposed to, for example, from family members or peers.
The feature also sourced the children’s therapist who further explained the children’s emotions and gave tips to their parents on how they could help them become “balanced individuals” in difficult circumstances.
These tips were educational and could be used by other parents who find themselves and their children in similar situations.
At the end of the article, contact details for LIFELINE Joburg and details of services available were provided so that anyone who needed rape counseling, trauma debriefing, support groups, or other assistance could access help.
This feature was certainly exceptional in terms of giving children a voice, protecting their right to privacy, including expert advice and providing a self-help option for anyone in need of professional help.
Media Monitoring Africa commends The Star and Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat.
NB. The reporter was given the opportunity to provide a response, but did not have anything to add, other than to express thanks.