Following the resurfacing of an unregulated truck stop, young girls of school-going age have become commercial sex workers in Hwange. The community is at loggerheads on who to blame, even the solution remains unclear.
The return of the Hwange Truck Stop is exposing young girls to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. This situation has become a thorn in the flesh for residents in Cinderella Township and Hwange town as a whole.
Girls of school-going age are getting involved in sex work for as little as US$1 as they join a growing community of commercial sex workers driven by poverty. The girls ranging between the ages of 12-16 years move around to the truck stop in the name of searching for a “piece job”. They knock at the windows of trucks, asking the middle-aged truck drivers if they need any help with washing clothes or cooking. They are offered the piece jobs, but the “jobs” often extend to sexual services.
Cinderella residents who stay next to the truck stop have raised concerns that the unregulated truck stop has become a source of pain and irritation for the community of Hwange.
“Young girls are indulging in sexual activities with these truckers. They are seen roaming around the trucks pretending to be selling some food and looking for piece jobs,” says one concerned resident.
The situation is even worse now that the girls are not constantly going to school. Community leaders have urged the youths to stay away from the trucking area.
“The youth need to focus on their future and desist from getting involved with these truck drivers,” says Pastor Mike Maphosa.
The truck stop, which was once closed down by the Hwange Colliery Company after turning out to be a health and environmental hazard, attracts truckers and mechanics known as amaGokwe because of their origins.
Greater Hwange Residents Trust Chairman, Fidelis Chima says, there is a need for Hwange Colliery Company to regulate trucks’ movement and ensure that haulage trucks park in enclosed parking areas.
“The truck stop has become hazardous to the community of Hwange both environmentally and socially, the number of young girls alleged to be engaging in sexual activities with truck drivers is alarming and disturbing hence Hwange Colliery Company needs to act before more harm has been done,” says Chima.
Hopeville Zimbabwe, an organisation that deals with children’s rights have expressed their concern over the truck stop resurfacing; saying there should be an awareness campaign over the several challenges that could result from its continued existence.
“The Truck Inn should be closed and monitored for any use. Secondly, there is a need for awareness campaigns against child abuse to owners of that place and users, anyone below the age of 18 should not be allowed to hang around Truck Inn, and there should be controlled entrance and exit points to monitor and control the young girls,” says Ruth Bikwa the Director of Hopeville Zimbabwe Children’s Rights organisation.
Bikwa says it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure children are safe at homes, streets and everywhere else because child protection is everyone’s responsibility.
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe Hwange Chapter Catherine Madondo says the impact of COVID-19 has fuelled the increase of ‘child prostitution’ in Hwange.
“The pandemic has left a trail of challenges which include poverty and having an increase of child-headed families in Hwange. The recent research we carried showed that child prostitution has led to several teenage unwanted pregnancies; hence these children end up failing to attend school lessons,” says Madondo.
Madondo blames organisations that advocate for protecting children’s rights saying the organisations and their programs are not fully equipping them.
“As programmers, we are failing because some programs try to implement children’s rights but create problems instead of solving problems. Children are now taking their rights wrongly. If we say they have the rights to health and education, it doesn’t mean they have the right to use their bodies wrongly. They are rushing for sexual activities and forgetting their consequences,” she says.
“In our programs, we should improve and give children proper education so that they make a well-informed decision as a result,” says Madondo.
“In Hwange, child prostitution is just too much; I recently handled a case of a grade six learner who claimed to be happy with a 32 yearly old truck driver. The child said she was happy with him and threatened to commit suicide if we continued discouraging their sexual relationship, that on its own is just a tip of how these children behave when it comes to sexual activities,” she says.
Child prostitution is a crime in Zimbabwe, but the nature of its occurrence makes it difficult for officials to keep accurate statistics.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin