NGO urges investment in children’s rights

via NGO urges investment in children’s rights | The Zimbabwean 8 July 2014 by Sofia Mapuranga

Sharon Chigara, 17, from village head Chipanera in Mudzi, Mutoko got married at 15 and she is now a mother of twin boys Tariro and Tapiwa.

She said she does not recall a time when she has ever been well treated or taken care of as a child.

“I grew up taking care of my ailing grandmother following the death of my parents,” said Chigara. “Being the eldest in a family of four, I had to fend for the family and make things work for my siblings and my grandmother, who is now late.”

She said at the age of 10, she started working in other people’s fields doing ‘maricho’ meaning food for work. “I have never known how it feels to be a child because I assumed responsibilities at a very early. I stopped going to school to fend for my family,” she said.

Like many children in the area who are doing menial jobs assisting illegal gold panners, Chigara said she ended up dropping out of school because of financial challenges.

A good mother

She told The Zimbabwean that efforts to get herself and her siblings on the government programme that is supposed to assist orphans and vulnerable children, the Basic Education Assistance Module, were futile.

“This is where I met my husband. He is a gold panner,” she said, before attending to one of the twin boys who had started crying. “I hope that I am going to be a good mother to my children and provide them with the requisite care that they deserve.”

Chapter 4 (3) (81) of the Constitution states the rights of children in Zimbabwe. These rights include the right to be heard, education, health care services, nutrition, shelter and to be protected from economic and sexual exploitation, child labour, maltreatment, neglect and any form of abuse.

Africa is the only continent with a region-specific child rights instrument. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is an important tool which was adopted by the Organization of African Unity in 1990. It insists that children have duties as well as rights.

Legally binding

However, although children’s rights have been on the international agenda since shortly after the First World War, it is only since the United Nations International Year of the Child in 1979 that legally binding treaties have been drawn up between nations, providing specific rights for children as a special group of human beings.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989, makes it clear that children are independent subjects whose rights have to be respected.

The Convention was swiftly ratified by most member states and Zimbabwe ratified it in September 1990. However, analysts argue that it is relatively easy for governments to sign the convention.

It is another challenge completely to implement the conditions provided for in the treaty and monitor that implementation.

Lagging behind

Zimbabwe is still lagging behind in the implementation of children’s rights, says Elfas Mcloud Zadzagomo, the Chief Executive Officer of Defence for Children International (DFCI).

“It is unfortunate that we are failing as a country in terms of implementing provisions of the African Charter on children’s rights,” he said.

Zimbabwe is not doing well in the provision of basic services such as health, shelter and sanitation among others for children. “Children are staying on the streets and there is no social protection,” said Zadzagomo. “We have realised that most children are ignorant of the children’s charter, neither do they know their rights.”

He said Zimbabwe had done well in the provision of education because of the high enrolment figures and national pass rates.

“When you look at the establishment of schools, although some of them do not have decent infrastructure, they are there. Access to health is a problem – the provision of adequate health care, especially for children, is still a challenge for the majority,” said Zadzagomo.

DFCI seeks to partner, network and interact with others who share the vision of a society in which poverty in general and vulnerability of children in particular have been eradicated.

Kids magazine

“We serve society in general and specifically children regardless of race, politics, religion, or sex, especially in the areas of providing and facilitating access to quality and value based education, medical care, spiritual guidance, psychosocial support, and subsistence to needy children,” said Zadzagomo.

He said his organisation had plans to produce a magazine targeting children aged 8 to 18 to raise awareness on children’s rights and encourage children to take responsibility of their lives and actions.

“Rights come with responsibilities and children have to be aware of this so that they are better positioned to defend their rights but at the same time act responsibly,” he said.

He said the magazine would be published in English, Shona and Ndebele and would be distributed in all the country’s 10 provinces.