Today’s child,who under the definition provided in the Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 is below 18 years of age, finds themselves encased in a Pandora ’s Box of so many evils. Their survival is purely by navigation around the multiple factors that can befall them either by themselves or assisted by people who surround them.
Poverty has become a root cause for the vulnerability of children. The global recession has affected all nations greatly particularly developing countries that are already in need of much assistance. This has had a ripple effect resulting in the cultivation of many other issues that threaten the well being of children such as child labour, early marriages, prostitution and child trafficking. In so many homes people will aspire to hire a child for a domestic worker yet often there are cases reported of those fifteen or sixteen year olds being abused sexually within households, whist failing to access their right to education. Often the victims of human trafficking are lured with promises of an income and a better survival desperately attempting to escape the clutches of poverty falling prey to unscrupulous individuals.
However Poverty is not solely to blame for the vulnerability of children. There are many contributing factors which are difficult to control and require a collective effort. The widespread accessibility of technology with smart phones, computers etc, has enabled children to access pornographic material prematurely resulting in sexual experimentation. This has at times resulted in teenage pregnancy due to premature sexual activity or cases of children sexually abusing other children, “boy (17) gets nine years for raping girl (11) – (Manica Post 29 November – 5 December 2013).
Despite the cultural dilutions frequenting societies due to global influences, there are still many communities particularly those of a rural nature susceptible to extreme practises in the name of culture, religion or tradition. Children fall prey to impositions made by their elders for instance, child pledging and forced marriages. Such communities also tend to violate or deny children their rights for example the right to health care such as immunizations or the right to education particularly for the girl child. Children often find themselves losing their right to be heard, as a child voicing out opinions to adults is just simply unheard off, their role is merely to obey and listen.
The HIV and AIDS pandemic contributes greatly to the plight of children. Many children are orphaned by the loss of parents, guardians and breadwinners. This has brought to light another concern of inheritance rights which has often been violated and gone unreported due to ignorance and lack of knowledge. Also children are vulnerable to discrimination when both infected or affected by the virus, thus having a negative effect on their well being in general.
Gone are the days when it was taken for granted that an orphan would be cared for by the extended family. Even when parents are alive albeit separated, there are children being abandoned with stories of how their parent or guardian just left one day and never came back. Child headed households are mushrooming throughout communities showing that neglect has become an effect of the breaking down of safety nets and values. Also with broken homes comes vulnerability such as domestic violence, child abuse and what is also termed the “step-parent syndrome.” As parents or guardians acquire new spouses there is need to greatly consider the welfare of children already present. Some step- parents are taking advantage of children and abusing them sexually, physically and emotionally.
Henceforth the need for intense advocacy has become pivotal in protecting children. Everyone needs to come together to play their part in assisting children as most of us are contributing in one way or another to their plight. Collective consciousness is the key to interventions pivotal in saving the life and well being of a child out there in desperate need so as to preserve the future of tomorrow.
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Simukai Child Protection Programme