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UNICEF appoints South African fashion icon Gavin Rajah


UNICEF last night announced the appointment of top South African couturier and humanitarian activist Gavin Rajah as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The announcement by the world’s premier children’s organization came at the close of the designer’s Cape Town Fashion Week show in the city South Africans affectionately call the “mother city”.

Welcoming Rajah to the fraternity of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors, Macharia Kamau, UNICEF South Africa Country Representative, said the appointment recognized Rajah’s transformative contributions to the lives of South African children and their families. Kamau stated, “Through his generous philanthropy and advocacy and his impressive creative achievements as a fashion designer and entrepreneur, Gavin Rajah promotes the rights of women and children to protection from violence, abuse and exploitation, and actively supports the development of critical life skills for young people.”

Rajah said, as he accepted the UNICEF appointment, “I am deeply honoured by this appointment, I have always been a great admirer of UNICEF’s work to protect the children of the world and I am proud to have been given the opportunity to help UNICEF protect, care for and stamp out the most abhorrent crime of violence against children, particularly those in my own country. We must all work harder to create safer conditions for children to grow up in. There is no future without children.”

In his work with UNICEF, Rajah will champion child protection, focusing on the care and protection of orphans and other vulnerable children like those in child-headed households, and for their right to grow up in healthy, safe environments, free from the scourge of violence.

According WHO global estimates, twenty-five per cent of girls and eight percent of boys have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse. The United Nations Study on violence against children showed that from forty to sixty percent of sexual abuse in families involves girls under the age of 15, and that boys and girls with physical disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Equally startling data on violence against children in South Africa show that the country may have a long way to go to achieve Rajah’s dream of a violence free environment for all children. According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), in 2005, 360,000 women and children were murdered, raped, assaulted and sexually molested in South Africa and 31,607 children were victims of common assault. Eighty-eight percent of first offenders are known to the abused, and homicide and violence is the no. 15 cause of death for children under five years old in South Africa.

South Africa is fighting back, however, with significant pieces of protection legislation currently before Parliament such as the Children’s Amendment Bill, the Sexual Offences Bill the Child Justice Bill and Child Trafficking legislation. Child protection units and specialized courts have been established to deal with sexual offences and aim to help reduce the time between reporting and finalizing a case and increase conviction rates. South Africa has a seven per cent conviction rate for all rapes reported to police, whether child or an adult. UNICEF provides technical support to these initiatives and to the 12 integrated centres (Thuthuzelas) that provide treatment, care and support to child survivors of sexual violence.


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