Parents must demand safeguarding policies to protect children from abuse

SA athletes in Tokyo protected by protocols to prevent abuse

All South African Olympic and Paralympic athletes are being protected by world-leading protocols developed by a local organisation working to safeguard women and children from sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of abuse.

The Guardian was appointed by SASCOC as the safeguarding partner to South Africa’s Olympic teams and has cleared SA’s coaches and managers against the Child Protection and the Sexual Offences registers. SA’s Olympic officials have also completed safeguarding courses to ensure those in their care are safe.

The Guardian’s services to protect women and children evolved from the global 2017 Kazan Action Plan conference (held in Russia) which resolved that all sports federations should have a safeguarding policy, must appoint qualified safeguarding officers and that all officials should be cleared against the necessary registers.

Additionally, the Guardian’s safeguarding protocols empower SA Olympic and Paralympic athletes — and those from many other SA sports federations — to report indiscretions such as abuse, harassment or bullying, anonymously via a whistle-blowing app which includes a panic button for emergencies.

The protocol and app are the brainchild of Marc Hardwick, a former investigator with the SAPS’s Child Protection Unit who, in 2007, launched The Guardian to offer services to schools, businesses, sports clubs and federations. Hardwick’s goal is to make safeguarding and child protection top of mind and to empower parents to become aware of the urgency to protect their children.

“Most institutions have a safety policy but do not have an effective, proactive safeguarding protocol. Many are ill prepared for cases of sexual harassment, women or child abuse, grooming and other inappropriate behaviours,” said Hardwick.

“We provide both proactive and reactive solutions to allow vulnerable athletes, students and others the opportunity to immediately report any abuse or bullying anonymously and for us to investigate the allegation.”

Abuse of women and children is considered a pandemic in SA where a recent UCT study found that nearly every child in the country had either experienced violence or been exposed to it.

“Every adult has an obligation to ensure children’s lives are filled with joy, not nightmares. We offer a solution to not only act against offenders but to protect the most vulnerable against the trauma of abuse,” added Hardwick.


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