International Day of Families

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 15th May should be observed each year as the International Day of Families. The aim of this annual observance is to increase awareness of family-related issues, and to help countries to tackle these problems with comprehensive policies.

The United Nations states that this day “reflects the importance which the international community attaches to families as basic units of society, as well as its concern regarding their situation around the world.” The aim of the day is to mobilise action in countries across the globe, and to offer the opportunity for people to speak out about and demonstrate support of varying family issues in different societies.


In 2018, the annual observance takes the theme of Families and Inclusive Societies, which aims to explore the role of families and policies in advancing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include achieving gender equality, eradicating hunger, and providing clean water and sanitation for all.

These were adopted in September 2015 with the aim of ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for everyone. For these world-changing objectives to be reached, it is important that everyone plays their part — that doesn’t just mean governments, international organisations, world leaders and the private sector, but civil society in general and each of us as individuals.

Here is a list of actions that you can do in your daily life to contribute towards a sustainable future, make an impact and be part of the solution (some of these can even be done from the comfort of your sofa).

In the good ol’ R. of S.A.

Every year, this day (2 April) is an occasion to promote a better understanding of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting the family unit. In South Africa, the family plays an important role in society, and nothing is arguably more important than making sure your dependents are safe, happy and healthy — while you’re still alive and after you’re gone.

In a country where divorce, unemployment, crime and health issues are rife, cover for dependents is more important than ever, and it’s advisable to do thorough research about what and who your medical aid policy will cover. Many schemes will cover you (principal member), your spouse (adult dependent) and children (child dependents) as members; and the same members should be covered if you take out a medical aid gap cover policy too. However, many factors determine who can be added to your medical aid scheme as a dependent. A dependent is classified as someone who depends on you financially, or who cannot take care of themselves due to a physical or mental disability — this does not need to be a blood relative, but you will need to be able to provide proof that they are dependent on you.

Medical aid schemes can vary on the age that they define children as becoming adults, but for most schemes, this tends to be at 21 years of age. The child can remain classified as a ‘child dependent’ for longer — even up to the age of 27 — If the parent can prove that the child is still dependent on them, be that because they are studying or unemployed.

If a child is included under a parent’s membership and the parent passes away, the dependent’s cover as a minor will remain valid so long as premium payments are maintained. In this case, children can often maintain the status of dependent until the age of 26, which will mean they are covered throughout university and early employment.

Many feel it important to ensure that their dependents will be taken care of after they’ve gone. If you are one of these people, do take the appropriate measures to cover any debts in case you pass away, and make sure you have the necessary life assurance products to cover you and your family in the event of a tragedy. A bit of planning and preparation are key to ensure that you have all your bases covered, so that you can rest assured that your loved ones won’t suffer any adverse financial consequences after your death.

The overarching goal of days such as International Day of Families is to make us realise the importance of what we often take for granted, and to review and rectify our situation so that we can protect those we love in the long-run.

Let’s pave the way this 15th May for an inclusive society that can work together towards sustainable development and look after each other for posterity.

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