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for laws to protect children
August 26, 2007
DESPITE the proliferation
of organisations ostensibly dedicated to the welfare of abandoned
and orphaned children in the cities and towns, a solution to the
problem seems as far away as it has ever been, according to many
people involved in this largely voluntary endeavour.
Others are calling for
drastic reforms in the child protection laws of the country, as
they believe the present legal arrangements are not enough to ameliorate
the state of the child.
Recently, The Standard's
Zvipo Muzambi conducted a survey of the street life of the child
in Harare. She also sounded out the concerns of the army of volunteers
who spend largely thankless hours trying to improve the welfare
of - the children. Tawanda Maronga spends his day in the streets
of Harare selling sweets or begging for money.
Like many other children
found on the streets, Tawanda exudes confidence and has developed
the uncanny knack of evading municipal police, whose daily routine
is to pounce on vendors, confiscating their wares.
The only time the streetwise
Tawanda loses his cool and looks as vulnerable as a bird with a
broken wing is when one starts talking of his background.
At 13, Tawanda should
be in Form One but he has never set foot in a classroom because
his mother says she cannot afford the fees. "My mother is blind,"
he said last week.
"I am told
that my father passed away when I was just a baby," he says,
suppressing a choke in his voice, trying hard to hold back the tears.
"The only place I knew as my home in Mbare was destroyed under
"We don't have a
home anymore. I sleep at Mbare bus terminus with my mother. The
Roman Catholic Church in Mbare can only provide us with blankets.
I come here looking for money to make things easier for my mother."
Tawanda's companion is
seven-year-old Marvellous Muvha, who has learnt to toil for her
own education at that tender age. While girls of her age spend most
of their time playing, she spends the day sitting at a street corner,
selling sweets and cigarettes.
"I stay in Epworth
with my mother and I come here everyday," she said. "My
mother leaves me here while she goes to search for goods with reduced
prices. I go to school at Domboramwari Primary in Epworth and this
business contributes to my school fees. My mother can only afford
to feed me and my brother."
Marvellous said her father
abandoned them after he married another woman.
Tawanda and Marvellous
are among many Zimbabwean children who have become victims to the
harsh economic meltdown. As the hardships worsen, many children
now work in the streets of Harare, trying to raise money to help
their families keep the wolf from the door.
The children, many from
broken homes, are spotted in the city, selling cigarettes, brooms
and fruits. Some said they had to work because fewer and fewer Zimbabweans
were now willing to help their parents with handouts: they too may
have hit rock-bottom as a result of the deepening economic crisis.
New Hope Foundation,
a child care organisation, established that many of the children
living and working on the streets were victims of the government's
controversial clean-up operation launched two years ago.
"A good number of
them are coming from our operational areas such as Hopley, Dzivaresekwa,
Caledonia and Epworth," said David Chitsungo, a grants, development
and compliance officer with New Hope Foundation.
"The children lack
sustainable sources of livelihood. Seventy percent of them are HIV
and Aids orphans," he said. "As a result they find sustenance
from working for themselves and begging on the streets."
But in the streets, the
children are exposed to many forms of abuse. Young girls are the
most vulnerable to exploitation as they are desperate for survival.
Many of them are taken from the streets and end up in the brothels
where they are abused.
director and founder of Girl
Child Network said: "The worst thing that can happen to
a child is to be working on the streets. There is so much potential
in these children. My worry is why we still see so many children
on the streets when there are many child-care organisations. There
is need to redirect our efforts for us to achieve more."
Makoni said the "street
life" of the girl child was harder than that of boys as they
doubled up as commercial sex workers at night. "The girl child
has a double tragedy -being a child who needs to be looked after,
and a woman at night. This is both child labour and exploitation."
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