Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Impact of Some Social, Cultural Practices on Children in Zimbabwe
April 27, 2016
Tanzikwa Guranungo Correspondent
Zimbabwe Herald

A report prepared by the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) under the African Union theme for 2013, “Eliminating harmful social and cultural practices affecting children: our collective responsibility”, provides empirical evidence that children in Zimbabwe are affected by harmful cultural and social

These practices consist of early marriages, child prostitution, drug abuse, child labour and border jumping.

Early marriages were reported as the most common harmful practice nationwide as girls under the age of 18 drop out of school to get married. In some cases, parents are influential in early marriages as they force children into marriage to get groceries from cross border traders, especially in Mwenezi area. Girls also experience sexual abuse and rape through religious practices in some apostolic sects, leading to early marriages to church members. Virginity testing cultural practice affects young girls in Hwange as they undergo these tests in front of adult males.

Early marriages are accompanied by other vulnerabilities such as exposure to HIV, rape and deliberate transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Stakeholders recommend the need to harmonise marriage laws with the age of consent. If children are issued with birth certificates at birth this will assist in the prosecution of offenders.

Child prostitution is prevalent in transit towns like Ngundu, Neshuro, Hwange and Lukosi. At Ngundu Business Centre young girls are participating in prostitution. In Lukosi and along the Hwange Victoria Falls highway truck drivers attract young girls who offer sexual services for as little as $1 and parents claim that lack of training institutions is contributing to child prostitution in the area.

Furthermore, traditional leaders claim that the loss of traditional values was responsible for most of the challenges people face in the area. The report indicates that child prostitution is linked to bottle stores and trucks, thus there is need to engage business owners and truck owners to ensure that children are protected and business people can also invest in child-friendly places.

It is also reported that cases of child labour are prevalent in communal communities as most children are asked to herd cattle during school time, especially in Mwenezi and Chikombedzi while others tend the fields and practice gold panning in Uzumba and Mudzi. In Mwenezi area young boys are employed to herd cattle for richer families, and mainly orphans and vulnerable children are affected. Girls are employed as vendors in shops or highways and also work as maids resulting in early marriages. It is said in areas like Lundi and Rutenga organised prostitution is practiced as some business people employ young girls and encourage them to wear miniskirts. Communities are urged to eliminate child labour practices and ensure that children attend school. The International Labour Organisation is working with other organisations and companies to ensure that children enrol back in schools.

In addition, illegal migration to South Africa is practiced by children looking for jobs without proper qualifications in Chikombedzi. The report noted that border jumping in the area is a result of lack of meaningful opportunities. Children practicing border jumping can be raped along the way, especially girls and some may be recruited into criminal activities.

There is need to regularise travelling, especially for minors so that they travel with the required documentation and the Government needs to ensure that some of the push factors are addressed to reduce irregular migration in search of economic opportunities in Botswana and South Africa.

Drug abuse is also another harmful practice affecting children in Zimbabwe as statistics presented by the Zimbabwe United Nations Association revealed that 65 percent of Zimbabwean youths suffer from mental problems due to drug and substance abuse as well as unemployment.

The writer is Public Relations Manager for Zimbabwe Youth Council.

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