CHILDREN as young as five years old have been identified as victims of child labour and sexual exploitation due to Zimbabwe’s deteriorating economic situation.
A report by the United States (US) Department of Labour titled 2021 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (in) Zimbabwe said 40,4% of children aged five to 14 were working to supplement their families’ incomes.
“Zimbabwean children living in border towns are trafficked to South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia, where they become victims of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour in domestic work,” the report read.
“Some families recruit rural children, especially orphans, to work in cities, often with promises of education or adoption. Such children are subject to domestic service or are forced to work in mining. Girls, as young as 11, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, particularly along major transit corridors and in mining areas.”
This comes as surveys have revealed an increase in school dropouts across the country.
A report released recently by the Union of Education Norway in partnership with the Zimbabwe Teachers Association revealed that Zimbabwe recorded a 20% increase in school dropouts since the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak.
In April, the Family Aids Caring Trust Zimbabwe revealed that close to 20 000 girls dropped out of school during the same period.
Poverty has been blamed for the school dropouts amid indications that most learners are being forced into all sorts of piece jobs to make ends meet.
The US said Zimbabwe’s laws prohibited forced labour, but were not sufficient to criminalise slavery.
“In 2021, Zimbabwe made minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. The National Assembly began consideration of amendments to the Labour Act, which would increase penalties for child labour violations.
“The government, with the United Nations, also launched an updated Sustainable Development Co-operation Assistance Framework, prioritising increased educational access and social protections for girls and other groups vulnerable to child labour.
“However, Zimbabwe is assessed as having made only minimal advancement because it implemented a practice that delays advancement to eliminate child labour.”
Efforts to get a comment from Public Service minister Paul Mavhima were fruitless as he said he was “busy”. He did not respond to questions sent to him.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa was not picking calls. Her deputy Kindness Paradza referred NewsDay to Public Service ministry secretary Simon Masanga whose number was not reachable. Posting on Twitter last week, Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said: “Did you know that when your children assist you in the field, some are defining that as ‘child labour’? So when certain countries say there is child labour in Zimbabwe, this is what they are talking about. And there are NGOs in Zimbabwe writing reports to that effect”.