BY TAPFUMANEI MUCHABAIWA/HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
GIFFORD High School (Bulawayo) student Unathi Nyoni was yesterday elected Child President ahead of the official opening of the 13th Junior Parliament by President Emmerson Mnangagwa tomorrow.
Nyoni takes over from Hazel Mandaza of Mahusekwa in Marondera.
Monalisa Moyoweshumba, a student from Manicaland province, was elected Speaker of the Child Parliament, while Sharon Mafuva from Masvingo province clinched the position of Clerk of Parliament.
On Saturday, the children’s Parliament will sit and grill ministers over issues affecting children in the country. All the parliamentary constituencies in the country are represented.
The election of the Child President coincided with the Day of the African Child, which is celebrated on June 16 each year.
Action Aid Zimbabwe said in order to protect children, the Justice ministry should enact a law that protects all children from sexual exploitation in accordance with the Constitution, and which will legally set the age for marriage at 18.
At the launch of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Caucus on children’s rights in conjunction with the Southern Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) yesterday, deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Tsitsi Gezi said children’s rights must be promoted through legislative and oversight functions.
“Children’s issues and their wellbeing must always be at the centre of our debates in parliament. We must appreciate that children are an important stakeholder in the policy and legislative making processes,” she said.
Gezi said children should enjoy access to education and health, and be protected against child marriages, domestic violence, child trafficking, child headed families, and drug abuse.
She said the Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights must be a non-partisan body of like-minded people across the political divide as it will discuss children’s issues that are side-lined in policy making processes.
SAPST programmes officer Chengetai Kanyangu said: “Apart from promoting children’s rights in the business of parliament, we hope that the children’s caucus being launched will also provide a space for meaningful child participation where children do not only have a voice, but are able to influence decision making processes.”
Mandaza said the caucus will strengthen capacity building of legislators on children’s rights.
“There should be more sittings of the children’s parliament in order to achieve full representation of children in policy making processes and come up with a child-friendly legislature.”
Unicef representative Tajudeen Oyewale said: “The Constitution and launch of the caucus on child rights by parliament not only demonstrate a keen awareness and understanding of the role of parliament in the governance landscape of Zimbabwe, but more importantly, it signals the commitment of parliament to harness its triple mandate as a legislative, accountability and oversight institution in Zimbabwe, and in the service of the children of Zimbabwe.”