Saturday, June 29, 2019

Zimbabwe First Lady Offers Shelter to Street Girls
29 JUN, 2019 - 00:06
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa greets one of the young girls living and working on the streets after she gave them blankets, sanitary wear, toiletries and clothes during their interaction in Harare yesterday. — (Picture by John Manzongo)

Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday interacted with girls and women living and working in the city’s streets who she has since provided with accommodation to ease their plight. She also donated clothes, towels, toiletries, hygiene kits, blankets and jackets to them.

Vulnerable schoolchildren from Harare and surrounding areas attended the meeting at Girls’ High School.

Amai Mnangagwa said this was the last day that these women and girls were going back to the streets again and promised to look after them at a place she had identified where they will be given food, clothes, sent to school and afforded better medical treatment, among others.

“I would like to thank you for coming for this interaction and I want you to feel free during this interact. Take me as your mother, grandmother and aunt,” she said.

She said the National Orphan Care Policy adopted in 1999 revealed that most of the people living in the streets started in 1990 as a result of the HIV and Aids pandemic after their parents passed on.

In 1999, after wide consultation, Government adopted the Zimbabwean National Orphan Care Policy, which set forth its response to the orphan crisis.

The policy affirmed the importance of family and community care and clearly stated that institutional care should be regarded as a last resort.

Amai Mnangagwa said as a result of the country many orphans due to the pandemic, several children’s homes were established to look after them.

She, however, said the children’s homes could not accommodate all these homeless children.

“It has also been discovered that there are several issues that drive children to live in the streets. They also face many problems such as being abused and this worries me most. This is the reason why I have come here to interact with you so that we will be able to solve all the problems,” she said.

She said she was worried about the conditions undwer which  these children were living especially during this winter as they had no clothing, no accommodation, no food and had nowhere to bath.

Amai Mnangagwa said she was reliably informed that most of the girls were being raped, resulting in unwanted pregnancies while others were exposed to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

She added that it was worrying that most of them could not even afford to go to school or seek treatment while others did not have birth certificates and other identity documents.

“Because of living in the streets, some of these children end up abusing drugs, selling drugs, being taught to be involved in criminal activities and engaging into prostitution while others are giving birth to babies while in the streets,” Amai Mnangagwa said.

She said there was need to continue protecting and looking after these children in order to solve the problems they were facing.

The First Lady later gave them a chance to give testimonies on the factors that pushed them to the streets.

One of them who lost her parents at a tender age said a few years ago she moved out of the family home in Chitungwiza to escape abuse by her grandmother.

“I started living along First Street and as a result of this I started abusing drugs, smoking and drinking alcohol and at one time I was raped. However, with the help of good Samaritans I am in the process of getting my life back.

“At the moment, I am a tout and in the process of raising money to further the cutting and designing course that I am doing,” she said.

She added: “If I don’t stand up for myself, no one will stand up for me.”

Meanwhile, another confessed to the First Lady yesterday that she was recently raped by an unknown man along an alley in the central business district during the night.

The 13-year-old, who was inflicted with an STI, is reported to be pregnant.

She told The Herald that she lived in the street and survived mostly on selling some foodstuffs recounting how on that day she went into an alley to relieve herself and was suddenly grabbed by the assailant who raped her.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police has since interviewed the girl with the hope of bringing the perpetrator to book as he is believed to roam around the city.

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