28 June 2012: Singer and UNICEF Regional Ambassador Oliver Mtukudzi visits Tanzania to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and violence against children
By Jacqueline Namfua
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 28 June 2012 – Renowned Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi recently made his first visit to Tanzania as a UNICEF Regional Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa. During his visit, he helped raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and child protection.
Stopping violence against children
His first stop during the two-day visit was in Hai District in the Kilimanjaro Region, where he highlighted the issue of abuse and violence against children and celebrated important progress made in addressing these problems.
Mr. Mtukudzi, also known as Tuku, met with child survivors of abuse who were living in a temporary home while waiting to be placed with permanent caretakers. The home is just one part of a well-functioning child protection system operating in Hai with UNICEF support.
The child protection system is the result of district child protection teams – consisting of social welfare officers, health workers, police and magistrates – that rallied together to establish a system that sees child abuse cases brought to court swiftly, with sufficient evidence, and perpetrators sentenced.
The system continues to improve. Together with the National Police Force and an audience of more than 500 people, Mr. Mtukudzi participated in the launch of the Gender and Children's Desk at a police station. The Desk offers a safe and friendly environment for children to report cases of abuse and violence.
Zero new HIV infections
Mr. Mtukudzi also visited a poor suburb of Dar es Salaam, where he met with a women's support group at the Round Table Health Center. The support group provides psycho-social support to women in the community and educates them about the importance of receiving antenatal services. The antenatal services include confidential HIV testing. Women found to be HIV-positive receive further services to prevent the mother-to-child transmission of HIV during pregnancy and labour.
“The services are there which help mothers to prevent transmitting HIV to their children. No child should be born with HIV. Today we know that this is possible. I saw one of these services today here in Tanzania, and it’s doing an excellent job, with an excellent staff,” Mr. Mtukudzi said.
He also listened to the stories of women living with or affected by HIV, many of whom had experienced stigma and discrimination.
"Talking to each other [helps], making one understand and believe that she is not alone, that there are so many other people infected with HIV, and it is not the end of the world. There is a tomorrow, the stigma will definitely fall away," he said.
A glimpse of hope
Next, Mr. Mtukudzi visited a local faith-based organization called PASADA, where he met adolescents affected by HIV. Many of the children were orphaned by the disease and have been stigmatized by their communities. PASADA offers them refuge, education and opportunities for creative expression.
Mr. Mtukudzi sang and danced for the children to inspire them to look to the future. The children smiled as they sang along to ‘Todii’, one of Mr. Mtukudzi’s most popular songs.
During his visit, Mr. Mtukudzi also broadcast key messages about child rights through radio and TV appearances, and spoke about the role of all adults in protecting children.
“If we can just change and be responsible enough, then I am sure the spread of HIV will be eliminated and we can also end violence against children,” he said.
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