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Child protection and access to justice for people with disabilities programme
Leonard Cheshire Zimbabwe Trust (LCZT)
January 29, 2013

Incidences of abuse involving people with disabilities (PWDs) in Zimbabwe occur on a distressingly large scale. The sad reality is that most cases go unreported, even disclosure of the abuse seldom leads to a conviction of the abuser due to attitudinal and communication barriers. Children and women with disabilities (CWDS) for instance, continue to suffer in shadows despite efforts and investments made to curb child abuse in Zimbabwe including good laws, protocol for the multi-sectoral management of child sexual abuse and numerous awareness raising programmes on the effects of abuse among PWDs. Disability unfriendly reporting mechanisms and insufficient knowledge on handling people with disabilities by the relevant authorities pose challenges for people with disabilities to access justice in Zimbabwe. On the other hand, fear, lack of knowledge about what is happening to them, and lack of access to trustworthy persons to confide, imprison thousands of PWDs every day in cocoons of silence. Only a few are able to seize opportunities to take part in decisions, to take action and to make change in their lives.

Leonard Cheshire Zimbabwe Trust (LCZT) is closing the gap in realizing PWDs's human rights through provision of technical support to the Victim friendly, Civil and Provincial Criminal Courts professionals through a Child Protection and Access to Justice for people with disabilities Programme. This pilot which commenced in July 2012 focuses on the secondment of a team of experts in disabilities (sign language interpreters, braille readers etc) to each; Victim Friendly sub-committee (coordinated by the Regional Courts); Civil and; Criminal Court that is activated and responds to cases of abuse among people with disabilities requiring special intervention as they come up. It seeks to ensure that specialised and timely support is available to each of the VF, Civil and Provincial Criminal court as soon as a person with a disability is identified as a survivor, witness, alleged offender or other significant stakeholder with a right to participate in the justice process. Building, reorienting and strengthening the response mechanisms for PWDs' protection ensures that the VFC, Civil and Provincial Criminal Courts stakeholders; deal with PWDs in a disability-sensitive manner, work to expedite cases involving PWDs and refer PWDs to post-trial care and support services where necessary in a manner that creates a confidential and conducive criminal justice system for PWDs.

LCZT has partnership with 36 disability service organisations with coherent structures at various levels whose experts will constitute the stand-by Team of Disability Experts that provides services to the VFS, Civil and Provincial Criminal Courts professionals during investigations, prosecution, trial proceedings and post-trial period. This service can be activated by the VF Courts or other VF stakeholders, Civil and Criminal Courts professionals following which, LCZT in collaboration with the office of the National VFC Coordinator will coordinate and facilitate the involvement of the Team of Disability Experts and other support mechanisms necessary to enable the child to access the VF and judicial system. The programme also provides logistical support in the form of meeting costs that cover medical assessments and transport of the stakeholders.

For more information about the programme or alerting LCZT about suspected cases please get in touch with Morgen Chinoona at 0773 051 751 or Greaterman Chivandire at 0774 308 334.

Visit the Leonard Cheshire Zimbabwe Trust fact sheet

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