Ann Skelton
Ann Skelton talks about her work

“In my final year at high school, I made a speech about inequality. This did not make me popular because it was still during the time of apartheid. But it was important to me because I learnt to put my rebellious feelings and thoughts into words. I did not realise then that I was to become a lawyer who would talk on behalf of children and fight for their rights. But that was what happened.”

Years later Ann went to study law and in 1986 got her first job as a prosecutor in court.
 "In this job, I saw many children appear in court, arrested and beaten up by police, bitten by police dogs with their wounds still open. Some were or cold without clothes to keep them warm. They were often very young, being detained without a trial and kept in police cells for any amount of a long  time. If they were found guilty of breaking a law, they could be sentenced to being beaten with a cane.
 I realised that the system was very bad for children who got into trouble with the law and that we needed to change it.”
 
  One case helps many
“Nowadays my work is not only about children in prison. I take cases to court about many issues that affect children. Although we now have better laws in South Africa, these laws are not always followed and children suffer. Sometimes we take a case on behalf of many children at once, so that their rights can be fulfilled. Sometimes we take one case for one child, and if we win then we can help all the children in the same situation – Shaafi’s case is like that, the case was about Shaafi, but it helps all children who are asking to be refugees in South Africa, like Shaafi.” 

Text: Marlene Winberg
Photo: Satsiri Winberg


 
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