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Zimbabwe at 30: The situation of Zimbabwean children 30 years on
Zimbabwe celebrates 30 years of independence from colonial rule on the 18th of April 2010. This is a momentous occasion for the country as it celebrates the sacrifices of its citizens in fighting for independence. This occasion is also important because it gives the nation an opportunity to pause and measure the country's successes and failures in the past 30 years.
At independence, the government raised hope towards the promotion and protection of human rights, including children's rights. Extensive reforms in the education and health sectors in the first one and half decades of independence immensely benefitted children as they had easy access to high quality services. The government introduced laws and policies and also signed and ratified international and regional treaties that specifically promote and protect children's human rights. The lives of most Zimbabweans in general and children in particular undoubtedly improved. The significant progress was however short lived due to lack of effective implementation of the policies, laws and international and regional treaties that were signed and ratified.
Despite the existence of both international and domestic laws, little has been done in the last ten years to fully promote and protect children's rights. The State's failure to enshrine children's human rights in the constitution has further compromised the respect, promotion and protection children's rights.
Since the year 2000 the country has experienced a myriad of challenges which worsened the vulnerability of children. The health care and delivery system has rapidly crumbled. Children are at the midst of the crisis as they are victims of HIV and AIDS, high child mortality rates, cholera and measles. Many children who fell victim to HIV and AIDS require constant supply of medication which is expensive and inaccessible to those in remote areas. Further, orphaned children who require legal assistance on various issues which are related to mainly inheritance and birth certificates have not been able to get assistance due to the harsh economic conditions.
The socio-economic and political challenges that faced the country during the past decade contributed in denying children their right to education. The education system is facing serious challenges as schools face a multiplicity of problems which include the mass exodus of teachers due to poor salaries and working conditions, shortage of textbooks and unaffordable school fees. The formation of the inclusive government had raised hopes but the future of the education sector remains under threat and the plight of children was worsened by the introduction of incentives for teachers. The right to education has become inaccessible for many children, particularly the poor. The pre-election and post election violence which gripped the country in 2008 contributed much towards the violation of children's rights. This is despite the fact that children do not vote neither do they have a role to play during elections. Children were subjected to rape, torture, displacement, loss of shelter, disruption of education, assaults, and forced participation at all night vigils. This left a lot of children traumatized and insecure.
Despite the recognition of the importance of the right to birth registration by the government, children have failed to access birth registration. Non registration of children deprives them of their fundamental right to identity and other rights which requires one to have registered such as the right to education, inheritance, social security, freedom of movement (including beyond the countries borders) and the right to participate in the governance of their country through, for instance, voting in their adult life. The sometimes cumbersome process of registering children, lack of information on the importance and procedure of registering children and the introduction of foreign currency as a legal tender have been major contributing factors on failure to register children's births.
The celebration of the 30th independence anniversary should be a turning point towards the respect, promotion and protection of human rights, particularly children's rights. Children require the support of everyone, particularly the government in order to enjoy their human rights. The government should craft and implement laws and policies which address the challenges children are facing. The constitutional making process is a platform for the nation to ensure that children's rights and socio-economic rights are incorporated into the constitution.
Visit the Justice for Children Trust fact sheet
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