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GCN paper presented on the launch of Day of the African Child
Girl Child Network (GCN)
June 13, 2005

This paper presented by Girl Child Network on behalf of the Zimbabwe Child Movement Working Group on the 1st White Band – Day of the African Child launch –13 June 2005 Harare Gardens, Zimbabwe

It is exactly now 29 years after the massacre of thousands of children who marched against the compulsory teaching of Africans and many injustices perpetrated against children in schools in Soweto, South Africa during the Apartheid Era. 16 June 1976 marked a new era for the African child, an era of deep thoughts, feelings, emotions and vision. An era that made the world over sympathise with the African child more – a child born and bred in a continent not only plagued by poverty but by disease and both natural and man made disasters. What comes into my mind about the African Child today is a deep sense of deprivation – a child born in a rich continent with abundant human and material resources, a child whose legs are in a deep pool of water but whose presence does not mean much as the same child dies from thirst.

Just two months ago non governmental organisations including Zimbabwe’s MWENGO and Girl Child Network representing 79 countries converged in Nairobi – Kenya and unanimously agreed that the Global call for Action Against Poverty (GCAP) would use 16 June of 2005 to mobilise for the first white band. It was generally agreed that ‘debt’ remains one hurdle for Africa

1st White Band campaign that GCAP agreed on;

  • Campaign for debt cancellation
  • Quality Aid
  • That the Day of the African Child today presents an opportunity to articulate how debt and Quality of Aid continues to undermine the development of the African Child.

It is against this background that Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in;

  • Global Call for Action Against Poverty
  • Emergency Call on the part of G8 countries to intervene in the plight of the African Child by cancellation of debt as well as increasing Quality Aid for Africa hence our theme is ‘Orphans and Vulnerable Children - Our Collective Responsibility’

By this launch today we also join the major event which is being coordinated and convened in Soweto, South Africa from today until 16 June 2005 on the day of the African child . What we are doing today is to also join the African Children’s Movement for Global Call for Action Against Poverty. Beginning May 2005 the Zimbabwe Child Movement Working Group which is a coalition of organisations that work with children and include Girl Child Network (GCAP member) ANPCAN, UNICEF, Streets Ahead, Child Protection Society, Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children, Just Children Foundation, Bhengiwerks Theatre Productions, Youth Round Table, NANGO, MDG’S National Taskforce, Chipawo, New Hope Zimbabwe came up with a programme of action which we present that marks celebrations to mark the day of the African Child. It is commendable that the Zimbabwe Child Movement has also joined government and other efforts to speak with one voice on issues pertaining to children. It is greatly appreciated that media from today will give this working group more coverage so that a cross section of Zimbabwean society educates and sensitises the wider community on the African in general and the Zimbabwean child in particular.

Reflection on the plight of the Zimbabwean girl child
As I reflect on the Day of the African Child, on the theme, on Africa and Zimbabwe and events unfolding on a daily basis I thought it best to dig deep into my archives of creative writing and I retrieved a I wrote that brings out very pertinent and urgent issues on the plight of the orphaned girl child, the issues on the child we all meet, look and sometimes just say ‘Oh shame’, and move on wherever our next step takes us. Eight months ago my husband took me to his usual drinking place, a peri urban growth point, where beer drinking is a basic entertainment and of course braai and meat an added basic. After I had made some observations I wrote the following poem

A poem dedicated to the orphaned girl i saw at Ziko Shopping Centre selling some salads at a braai place

The last time I saw her
Yes indeed I do recall
The very last time I saw her
She was in tattered clothes
She had her rough feet in cold sand
Her eyes were tearful
So was everything round her
Tears of sorrow, having lost both father and mother

She looked at me and I looked at her
She stared at me, I stared at her
We both almost dropped tears
The girl was a vendor
A vendor on the most risky places
Braai place by the pub
She sold some salads
In the middle of the night
Risky, very risky, indeed very very risky

I looked at all those drunk men
She is easy prey, I thought
How on earth would she resist sexual slavery
I cursed mother earth for being so cruel
An innocent orphaned girl turned vendor
Grandma and Aunt said unless she fends
For her siblings, two brothers and sisters
Then she should not come home

I asked everything, she told me everything
She asked me everything, I told her everything
I looked at her, she looked at me
I stared at her, she stared at me
Poor, disadvantaged vulnerable girl
No shelter from rain, no warmth from cold
I whispered to myself, future woman of tomorrow
I will follow up with her so that she too
Walks in the full potential of her life

I vividly recall the last time I saw her
She was tearful, I became tearful
I would see her again, I bade farewell
Which is reason we are in existence
I will see her again, I am greatly inspired by her
The last time I saw her

(By Hazviperi Betty Makoni, founder and Director of Girl Child Network)

Today 18 of the world’s poorest countries are considered for debt cancellation and quality aid. But my question as I track down to Ziko Growth point and 90% of Zimbabwe`s remote areas I asked whether we are not one of the poorest countries. As I reflect today on the Day of the African Child I present that poverty is all round us and our children and equally calls that we prioritise a holistic approach to eliminating poverty once and for all. As an activist I am appalled with the daily statistics of children living in abject poverty that call for an intervention like debt cancellation and increased quality aid for these are the major setbacks to meaningful development.

  • 1,1 million orphaned children in Zimbabwe
  • Over 3000 people dying of HIV and AIDS and adding to the numbers of orphans though from January to December we announce the same 1,1 million figure on orphans
  • 6 girls report rape in Zimbabwe daily to our organisation and most of the girls are from child headed families. To add to that at least 6000 girls report rape annually in Zimbabwe and 3 times this number do not report due to lack of quality service delivery
  • 20% of young girls are out of school due to poverty and only 50% of girls who complete grade 7 proceed to form 1. A lot more girls are in school as a formality as it apparent that they are without basics such as books and writing material. Besides long distances to school has made them give up .The girl who walks the longest distance to school covers a total of 30 kilometres per day
  • 50% of rural girls miss 5 days of school per month due to lack of sanitary towels as a result of menstruation, a biological occurrence and due to lack of food, uniforms and shoes
  • At every growth point, market place, roadside, flea market, street at least 3 out of 10 people who sell different wares are young girls aged 7 – 15
  • Due to gender and age girls are more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS and most of the girls get infected as a result of poverty where they resort to commercial sex work, forced marriages and other risky income generating activities
  • 93% girls get raped compared to 7% boys in Zimbabwe
  • Out of the 100 girls whose club I launched in Gokwe recently, 80 had no jerseys, 20 had no panties, 60 no jerseys in this cold winter, all of them use old rags or leaves or newspapers if they are lucky to get it during menstruation
  • In yet another girls club in rural Mutasa district in Manicaland in a club of 8 girls 10 were HIV with no medication and having not seen a doctor,1 had recently died ,twenty had no single meal since morning, 60 had no shoes on during winter, all uniforms were in tatters and none of them were sure they would have a proper meal that very day or any other day

When I reflect on the girl I saw at Ziko and all the above numbers I have personally interacted with on a daily basis it would appear as if though the plight of children is an emergency in practical terms other events, issues and priorities override it. So many National Action plans, Taskforces, organisations, strategic plans, policies, frameworks, World days for this and that, International conferences International and Regional Legal Statutes and conventions, Campaigns Against this and that, so on and so forth are all around us but for the African Child these have not built the Wall of Greatness that enable our own children to visualise this country of ours –Zimbabwe and the wider continent Africa as a basic need, a home and safe net to be. We just continue putting together statistics of the many suffering children and present them in a pathetic way to donors and other international parties without really reflecting how each and every child we sincerely commit to develop in our family, community , village , district ,province, country and continent is indeed a genuine investment. In commemorative days such as these it makes much more sense to present those children we have assisted and allow those children we have not to come out in full force and say it and make certain their expectations. Equally the Global Call for Action Against Poverty manifests itself more meaningfully at family and village level.

The urgent need to ask Powerful Questions chats the best way forward
Sometimes when we do certain actions or say certain words we seem not to ask very powerful questions. Today the powerful questions are directed to G8 countries, our government, NGO’s in the Zimbabwe Child Movement and many others, donors, the children themselves, African leaders, child rights activists and these seek to address issues on poverty, disease, deprivation, building Africa’s Wall of Greatness for the African child, abuse and homelessness. Note well that my questions never ask why but how as we urgently need to move forward which worry us most as this is where our children will spend the rest of their lives. Get me right that we should not discard of our past at all. Wherever I put why and go back I take any parts of our history that are best for this is where we seek to draw strength. Not much has been learnt by reflecting only on what is negative and I am sure being a continent plagued by many mishaps we should dwell more on the how question and instilling this in the African child brings hope and peace of mind.

How best can we put together a more effective way of addressing poverty especially joining Global Campaign Against Poverty with the African Child in mind?

HIV and AIDS is like a genocide that has left even more children orphaned and more vulnerable, how can we help African children to be in full combat against the disease?

If I reflect on my own actions and words how possibly can I improve the condition of the African child?

Building Africa’s Wall of Greatness
Africa is a very rich continent with so many resources (both human and material) that can be used to the best advantage of our children, how can we build Africa’s Wall of Greatness with our children?

Abuse is a very huge chain, perpetrated by virtually everyone at every level of society, how can we totally eliminate all forms of abuse against our children?

A home is a basic need and how many of our children need this basic need right now as we mark the Day of the African Child?

I have had the experience of counselling parents going through divorce and have divorced with life threatening disputes, conflicts, misunderstandings and differences on children. Sometimes these are parents who do not see eye to eye, who vow that they will never join hands, who bang my doors as they leave my office and vow never to come back. I am always patient and of course failure is never an option for me as well and then I make follow up calls and plead that the same parents come back to the talking table. As a country sometimes we find ourselves as complete opposites in our various groupings as government, politicians and political parties NGO’s, parliamentarians,donor communities, churches, G8 countries, AU, Comesa etc. There are so many differing political and economic views and opinions the world over and the magic of difference needs reflection , passion and commitment. We may differ and disagree on whatever issues but on matters to do with children we simply have to put our heads together, ask the powerful questions and give constructive responses and then move on. As long we prolong conflicts and sanctions as well many other man made disasters like wars ,civil unrest etc we prolong the suffering of the African Child. Remember ‘Orphans – Our Collective Responsibility’ Let’s always Walk the Talk.

I just reflected on how best I should conclude on the theme of the Day ‘Orphans- Our Collective Responsibility and I feel the following poem throws us in rethinking, remaking, revitalising and revival of the African Child.

Nherera inoguta musi wafa mai

Nhaka vatoti dzawira mutswanda
Mabhoyi, varanda vawanda ivo vagere zvavo tekeshere
Vokwenya mhuno nekasiyanwa
Hunzi nherera fira fufu segonzo
Vakuru vakazviona vakati nherer inonhuwa
Inomimwa senhunzi, kuna vose itsvina
Heyo nemadziro papata, misodzi nematama mokoto mokoto
Yakatodeuka kare,mvura yeguchu haidyorwi
Neko vaberekivo kwamutsiganebwe
Nherera inoguta musi wafe mai

Zvandibaya, neyanguwo misodzi mokoto mokoto
Kuchemawo vabereki, dzangove shungu chete
Ha, ha, ha, mhani, yuwi maihwe
Yopambara, yodzungaira, yotandadza nherera
Zvoyonge tsangamumvura, kubvunda
Nhaka vanoponda zvavo
Inotoguta musi wafe mai nherera

Aripano hunzi, 'AIDS orphans,' chirungu icho
Ari papo hunzi, 'Nherera dzomukondombera'
Uyuwo, ' Nherera dzechirwere,' vabereki hunzi vakafa naichocho
Zvochenge chipuka, zvochenge chisionekwe
Ko zvavanoti nherera mwana, mwanai inherera?
Mazita yava nhakayo yomuturikidzwa
Hunzi 'Children Orphaned by AIDS',
Hunzi, 'Child whose parents died of AIDS,'
Chirungu, chizezuru, chiiko? Haiwa nhaka vakachiwana vapwerevo
Kuvapwereyo AIDS kufirwa, kufa, kuchema ku-----
Ha! Mhani chwi - i -I kutsamwa

Pavanodya nherera inonzi guta
Pavanorara nherera inonzi muka
Pavanopfeka nherera inonzi shama
Pavanoseka nherera inonzi chema
Pavanotamba nherera inonzi shanda
Inoguta musi wafe mai nherera
Heyo yodzomba yodzungaira nherera
'Enda kumakuwa ndiko kuna mai vako
Uzvitaure ndakakubhinya, bakatwa hero
Vasina kubhadhara mafees budai izvozvi
'Ma AIDS Orphans ose mirai nepapa
Kana usina 'death certificte' haupihwe fees
Utipe umbowo vako vabreki vakafa ne AIDS
Zimwanaro rakabva kuhohwa harinzwi
Ndini ndati vabereki vako vafe ne AIDS?'
Mudzimbamo muzvikoromo, mutwusangotwomo
Nherera chituko chavose, nherera mvemve
Nherra mushandi, mukadzi muranda muzvose, ha mhani!!
Ha ha ha mhani imi vanhu, mandibaya kuti dyu-u-u
Vanhu ndati ha- shemu, chwi-I ndoridza ngani tsamwa?
Shemu naihwo utsinye, hubhinya kunherera
Makazoti ngaigute musi wafa mai nhai?
Zvakawanda zvituko, gomo risikwiriki
Nherera inoguta musi wafe mai

Nherera panorangwa vavo vana newewo udziteye nzeve
Chimwe nechimwe chine nguva yacho
Pane yavo nguva, pane yakowo nguva
Paneyo nguva yako yekuchema
Paneyo yavo nguva yekufara
Paneyo nguva yekukohwa nekuguta
Paneyo nguva yako yekuziya nenzara
Paneyo nguva yokufa neyowo yokurarama
Rarama chete madzivawo achava mazambuko, dzavewo nherera maziso wundundu
Nyangwe ukati mhoro nherera, newewo uchava nherera
Simuka, shanda, inochema uchipukuta nayo misodzi
Kare haagari ari kare, chisingaperi chinoshura
Uzive nherera inoguta musi wafe mai

Havazive, seka urema wafa
Chinokanganwa idemo, muti bodo kwete
Chinokanganwa mushungurudzi, mushungurudzwi bodo kwete
Kare haagari ari kare
Nawo ma ' AIDS orphans' achava shwigwiti, vachazova vanhu
Nadzo nherera dzichava vanhu, vapenyu kwete 'AIDS orphans'
Chisingaperi chinoshura, nhasi ndezvenyuwo, ehe sekai, tsvinyai
Heka nherera inoguta musi wafa mai
Vanoti chadyiwa chawora, zvenyuwo zvichaora chete
Narowo shoko imhakwa, ranguwo ndakanda
Muzive nherera mwana, chenga ose

(Detembo iri rakanyorwa na Betty Makoni Director we Girl Child Network)

I made this presentation in solidarity with Zimbabwean and African children ,GCAP 1st White Band Committee , the Zimbabwe Child Movement Working Group made up of Girl Child Network(GCAP member), ANPCAN, UNICEF, Streets Ahead, Child Protection Society, Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children, Just Children Foundation, Bhengiwerks Theatre Productions, Youth Round Table, NANGO, MDG’S National Taskforce, Chipawo and New Hope Zimbabwe, Chipawo and many others who join the rest of the continent to mark the Day of the African Child In Soweto ,South Africa on 16 June 2005.

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