PLAN International, in partnership with Simukai Child Protection and the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, have joined hands to sponsor the participation of children in media advocacy as part of the Day of the African Child commemorations.
The media advocacy focuses on the fulfilment of children’s rights and ending child marriages as well as teen pregnancies in the Covid-19 scenario.
Like every year on June 16, the African Union and its member states observe the Day of the African Child as a commemoration of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa.
On that day, students who marched in protest against apartheid-inspired education were brutally murdered by the oppressive system that was governing South Africa.
To celebrate the children of Africa and calls for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges they face in Africa, the Day of the African Child 2020 theme reflected on ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’ as adopted by the African Union Executive Council during its 34th Ordinary Session held from February 7 to 8, 2019.
Plan International’s Zimbabwe programmes co-ordinator for the Strengthening Civil Society in Ending Child Marriages in Middle East, East and Southern Africa, Ms Precious Babbage said her organisation saw it fit to support children in this media advocacy programme as the organisation’s purpose is to strive for a just word that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.
“This activity was also in line with the fulfilment of Plan International’s goal of reducing child and unplanned pregnancies as well as child marriages in Zimbabwe. We also want to enable girls, boys and young people to develop into responsible and engaged citizens,” she said.
Ms Babbage also urged the judiciary system to support children by ensuring a child friendly justice system.
She said cases affecting children should be prioritised to ensure that the best interests of the children are safeguarded.
“Plan International is working closely with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to ensure that remote education is adopted for both rural and urban children.
“A number of Covid-19 awareness campaigns are being done in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Simukai Child Protection, traditional leaders such as Chief Mutasa, young people and our various partners. Rural youths have received support in trainings for the production of reusable sanitary pads and reusable marks and other income generating activities to combat the negative impact of Covid-19,” she said.
Ms Babbage added: “Plan International has also facilitated a talk show programme between youths and the regional magistrate in line with accessing a child friendly justice system. Child marriage is abuse and everyone should be responsible to stop it in line with the Zimbabwe National Action Plan on Ending Child Marriages, the SADC model law on ending child marriages and other international and regional instruments that Zimbabwe has ratified.”
Plan International is also complimenting Government’s to empower youths through resource mobilisation.
“The junior legislator’s induction was mainly funded by Plan International. Such intervention has enhanced the performance of junior councillors and junior members of Parliament when executing their duties. Through the induction programme, Plan International has created an enabling environment for young people to have platforms to professionally present their issues to the highest offices on the land.
“We have also intervened through the sponsorship of vocational skills, access of youths to both primary and secondary education as well as acquisition of birth certificates. The girl child school drop-outs have also been accorded second chances to either go back to school or have vocational skills.”
A junior Member of the National Assembly, Miss Zvikomborero Matsito urged her peers to shun pornographic stuff that pop-up on the internet and concentrate on their books.
She urged service providers to ensure that children’s rights are not violated during the lockdown.
Mr Panashe Katsidzira, a child rights advocate from Mutare Boys’ High School urged parents and guardians to desist from marrying off children for pittances.
“Parents should find alternative means to solve the economic hardships that come with the lockdown, instead of resorting to marrying off their children,” he said.
Mr Katsidzira also called for the addressing of mental health issues for both parents and their children due to the strains and uncertainties being caused by the lockdown.
Junior Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Mr Robert Tungwara spoke on youth responsibilities and urged his peers to act responsibly during the lockdown. He also encouraged them to commit themselves to studying rather than loitering around.
Simukai Child Protection project co-ordinator, Ms Bridget Zhou said they offer temporary shelter for abuse victims.
“At Simukai, we have a temporary safe shelter where children who are survivors of abuse are provided with rehabilitative services, including psychosocial activities. We facilitate access to clinical and legal services through the referral system.
“Children who are victims of abuse usually have their day-to-day lives disrupted. We are therefore interested in the realisation of a child friendly justice system which includes protection of their right to be heard, victim and child friendly courts and speedy conclusion of all cases concerning children.
“We are also working in partnership with Plan International, our funding partner on the 18+ Ending Child Marriages in Zimbabwe project,” she said.