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Mtukudzi speaks about child abuse
Baldwin, Zambian Child
July - September
This article was
first published in the Zambian Child. Issue 1, July - September 2004
"It isn't up to
governments or organisations to stop child abuse - it is up to us. It
is up to you and me. We need to show self-discipline, it is up to us.
What shall we do?"
And with the tall,
elegant Oliver Mtukudzi, begins softly strumming away on his guitar, singing
in his dulcet tones of the matters closet to his heart. A dedicated advocate
of social issues, the man affectionately known as Tuku captivated fans
with three concerts in Zambia aimed at raising awareness of child abuse.
Jamie Baldwin caught up with Oliver after his recent visit to ask
why the concerts were so important to him.
JB: How did you
feel the three concerts went? Did you enjoy coming to Zambia?
OM: The line up of
shows was organised by Kulture consult and were the best we have done
so far in Zambia. We particularly enjoyed performing to such a diverse
cross section of people which was helped by the venues they chose.
JB: You seem to
have strong opinions on the subject of your concerts - child abuse. Why
do you feel so strongly about it?
OM: Child abuse just
horrifies me altogether but what I have learnt in my life is that every
child who is abused in some way is very likely to become an adult who
abuses children again.
Harming one's children
isn't just about the immediate damage victims of abuse undergo but the
thought of the long term damage to the child really troubles me. If left
unchecked, it will surely ruin a child's prospects and future.
If you consider the
other dangers these days like AIDS and other diseases, it becomes a really
major problem that all responsible people just have to tackle.
The media has a big
role to play in exposing the problem but as an artist, I know I have a
responsibility too. Music has the ability to cross boundaries and reach
JB: Have you had
any direct or indirect experience of child abuse, neglect or suffering?
OM: Not within my
immediate family but indirectly, many cases of neglect and direct abuse
have come to my ears. As for suffering, there are far too many children,
even in Zimbabwe, who suffer silently in a variety of ways. It's all around
me. I have written many songs on these issues over the years and will
keep writing them as this is the way I know best.
Prevention is the
main theme to pursue because once abuse has occurred, trying to patch
up the damage is difficult.
JB: How can communities
best tackle issues of child sexual and physical abuse? What would your
OM: To listen to adult
men trying to justify their actions for a variety of 'crazy' reasons is
This is why I encourage
families and communities that often know of people who are abusing children
to take some kind of action as the law will almost always support them.
I encourage them to become to become more proactive, though I suppose
the fear is to be sure that you have accurately identified the offenders.
But most groups or
communities of people can be far more assertive by making it known how
unacceptable it is, especially if they discuss such issues when they meet
and talk about the long term impact. To show some understanding as to
how such people come to be might reach some of the adults who abuse children
or even their wives.
I think we should
also be encouraging people to use the law rather than 'street justice'.
Ideally a suspect should be being proven guilty of abuse as well.
A woman who knows
that her husband is abusing one or all of her children often fears retaliation
or similar abuse if she confronts her husband. I can understand this problem.
Ultimately, a hotline
for children is perhaps the clearest way forward - we have this in Zimbabwe.
A child can call for help without revealing their identity and its working
quite well I understand. In rural communities elders in a community or
figures with some kind of authority (even chiefs) could assume a similar
role. Counselling of the abusers and the abused can also relieve the problem.
JB: A key message
from a recent children's national art and essay competition on the worst
forms of child labour was that children felt as though they had 'lost
their youth' and been forced to become adults too quickly. Can you identify
OM: Definitely, like
I said, it is the long-term damage that is even more worrying and one
issue that I believe encourages many women to become prostitutes. Its
not just an economic necessity as some argue but often due to early abuse
which makes them lose their self-respect. What goes around, comes round.
An essay or art competition
both provide other avenues for an abused child to express the problem
(even subconsciously) in a non-confrontational manner. A bit like the
Childline telephone service.
If a topic like 'child
abuse' is offered as the subject of a piece of work, one would hope that
the adults judging the competition would be more inclined to perceive
the problem and follow up with some action and try and intervene, especially
counselling. It is always important to listen to what children try to
About Zambian Child
Zambian Child is an
eight page quarterly newspaper aimed at giving a voice to children and
child issues in Zambia. The paper is funded by the Anglican Chidlrens
Project in conjunction with ILO/IPEC.
encouraged to contribute articles, features, photos or information for
the In Brief and Diary section. These should be sent by email to the editor
Jamie Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org
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