IThemba for Girls Trust (IGT) is joining the world in celebrating the United Nations Universal Children’s Day (20 November). Universal Children’s Day was established in 1954 to promote amongst other things, children’s rights and welfare.
In 2018, the day was themed, “Turning the world blue” through calling governments and corporates to help build a world where every child is in school, safe from harm and can fulfill their potential. IGT believes that Universal Children’s Day commemorations should not be limited to celebrations but should involve taking practical and proactive steps to ensure that children are protected from socio-economic harm and their constitutional rights are respected.
In Zimbabwe children have become alarmingly vulnerable with the escalation of the socio-economic problems the country is facing. Moreover, girls seem to be affected more under these harsh economic conditions as highlighted by a Sunday News Report dated 27 October 2019, which stated that more than 6,700 girls dropped out of school in the country last year after they fell pregnant or entered into unintended marriages. This revealing fact was said by an official United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officer during a workshop held in Mazowe, Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Education is yet to release a statement to react to this report.
While IGT acknowledges the efforts made by the Zimbabwean Constitution in the protection of Children’s Rights such as the Right to Health, Education…the right to adequate standard of living and the right to be protected from abuse, harm and from exploitation. IGT is concerned by the lack of clear and strong legislative provisions that actually directly protect the rights of the child in line with the Constitution, as the current legislation meant to protect children especially the girl child in Zimbabwe is weak.
Customary Law in Zimbabwe which provides some of the basic legislation vis-a-vis child rights legalizes the abuse of girls especially in rural areas as it does not clearly stipulate the age of marital consent under Customary Law. This has systematically created an abusive system that promotes child marriages as girls as young as 12 are getting married under this system heightened by the socio-economic environment currently experienced in Zimbabwe which consequently violates the right of the girls including the right to education. IGT is further concerned at the slow rate at which parliament and the legislators are handling the harmonization of customary and statutory legislation in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
IGT would like to see priority given to the laws concerning children’s rights as they are a vulnerable group that needs to be protected. Priority should be given to amending legislation to ensure that customary law marriages in relation to underage children be deemed illegal.
IGT also calls on government to ensure educational programs to educate children of their rights becomes a priority and takes place in rural schools as children in rural areas are not aware of their rights and cannot fully utilize their potential due to this incapacity.
Source: IThemba for Girls Trust (IGT)