THE Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) has commended the government of Zimbabwe for coming up with a number of policies that serve the interests and aspirations of children in line with the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
By Michael Gwarisa
The Charter of the Rights and Welfare of Children is a treaty and instrument that the government of Zimbabwe also ratified in 1990. In an interview with HealthTimes on the sidelines of a conference to mark the celebrations of the 30th Anniversary of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Kwekwe, Reverend Taylor Nyanhete, the National Director ZNCWC said even though government has made progress in enacting policies that favor the rights of the child, more still needed to be done as some laws were yet to aligned to the current constitution.
We are gathered here to check on progress that we are making in terms of realisation of children’s rights and this year, we are part of the celebrations on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which is a treaty and instrument that the government of Zimbabwe ratified in 1990. It has reached 30 years of existence so we are celebrating that.
“In our celebrations, the conference theme is A Zimbabwe we want for Children. As we are celebrating, one of the objective is that we looked at our last conference in 2019 and we are speaking to the issue of alignment of laws to the 2013 Zimbabwe constitution. As we are reflecting, we are happy that one of the laws has become an Act, the Education Amendment Act of 2020. And in the Act, some of the highlights we are happy with is the abolishment of corporal punishment in the school setting. That has been made clear in the law, it has been outlawed,” said Reverend Nyanhete.
He added that the Act has also made it clear that, “girls would have access to sanitary wear in school particularly government schools, so that has been made clear.” The Education Amendment Act of 2020 has also clarified the issue of inclusive education which must be prioritized and every school setting must have infrastructure for inclusive education to ensure that no child is denied access to education regardless of disability or infirmity.
“The school infrastructure should speak to that so that children access education without any reservations. There are other laws that are still to be aligned such as the marriage bill, it is a controversial bill but is a positive development because it is recognizing that a child is a child whatever the circumstances of the parent’s marriage union. Be it cohabiting, civil union among others unions all that. The law is also recognizing that a child can only be married at 18 and nothing below that.”
He also touched on the issue of the Age of consent and said as Civil Society they were not asking for the age of consent to be brought to 12, but rather have it increased to 18 which is also the age a child can get married.
Meanwhile, the Students And Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) is also part of the Child Rights Coalition which hosted the Child conference in Kwekwe. The conference was attended by children including the junior council and junior parliament, child rights coalition members who represent various children in communities ranging from children with disabilities, children from farming communities, children from rural communities, the education and health sector among others
SYWHAT Child Protection Unit Coordinator, Spiwe Dongo said they were working in communities such as Mazowe community with a partner called Farming Community Education Trust (FACET) to reduce child marriages and uni tended pregnancies as part of their efforts to advance and improve access to rights and welfare of children.
“We are realizing that farming communities are a bit unique from general rural communities. Their challenges and problems are also a bit unique because of the situation the farm workers find themselves in. We also have a new trend of mining communities we think that there are a lot of small-scale mining activities that are happening in these farming communities as well.
“We are working with community leaders and district level government departments to actually reach to the community in terms of ending child marriages. We are also using what we call the Channel of Hope Child Protection Model which we got trained by World Vision where we are saying everyone in the community is a channel of hope for the child. We are also using our own SAYWHAT Big Sister, Young Sister Model where we are going to mining communities and train young women who are not children but young women to reach out to young girls and empower them to know their rights,” said Dongo.
SAYWHAT currently has a child protection unit and other this unit, they have a call center which is there to receive calls from children and young people in distress and at times parents call on behalf of their children.