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Press statement: Joint statement by the Zimbabwe Youth Council and UNICEF to mark the 2013 Day of the African Child

Harare, 16 June, 2013: Today, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Zimbabwe Youth Council join Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa to commemorate the Day of the African Child whose theme this year is “Eliminating harmful social and cultural practices affecting children: Our collective responsibility.” This theme is a realization of the harm that children in Africa and the world over experience due to a number of archaic and injurious social and cultural practices.  

The protection of children from harmful practices is enshrined in international human rights standards and laws that have been adopted and passed by Zimbabwe and other countries in the region. But in strong contradiction to this ethical and legal imperative, harmful practices remain pervasive and socially condoned, and continue to seriously hinder children from fully enjoying their rights. No week passes by without the media reporting on children who have been sexually abused by persons they trusted, forced into marriage at an early age, accused of witchcraft and attacked for bringing misfortune, subjected to begging and bonded labour, denied food for various social reasons, killed for ritual purposes, or endangered in many other practices. These practices compromise the development and education of the children, leaving serious and long lasting health and psychological consequences that may result in disability or death.

Other practices may find no cultural or religious justifications, such as forced marriages, but they are deeply rooted in gender-based discrimination. Still others may reflect ill-perceptions or misconceptions, or discriminatory and harmful beliefs towards marginalized children, including children with disabilities and children with albinism. Overall, these incidents are inevitably associated with serious forms of violence.

The protection of children from these harmful practices has for long been a topic of concern for UNICEF, the Zimbabwe Youth Council and its partners in Zimbabwe. We continue to work with the Government and partners to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children. Most especially, we continue to urge the Government of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders involved with children “to prohibit all forms of violence against children in all settings including all corporal punishment, harmful traditional practices, such as early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and honour crimes…:” and to recognize the importance of transforming “attitudes that condone or normalize violence against children, including acceptance of corporal punishment and harmful traditional practices.”

This year’s celebration takes place against the background of the passing of a new Constitution for Zimbabwe and the launch of the new National Youth Policy. Zimbabwe Youth Council and UNICEF are appreciative of the inclusion of children and young people’s issues and full participation in the development of both the Constitution and the National Youth Policy. With the Day of the African Child having its history from the struggle led by children and young people to ensure the realization of their rights under apartheid, their participation in national processes thus becomes both symbolic and ideal if Zimbabwe is to move forward.

The day remains important for all the young people of Africa as we not only remember those children killed during the Soweto Massacre of 1976 but the rights they were fighting for and we reflect on how far the continent has gone in addressing these rights.
We remain proud to be among the leading countries in Africa in terms of young people’s participation and youth development, particularly in education and skills development. Being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the African Youth Charter, Zimbabwe’s obligation to the welfare of the child thus is enhanced yet goes beyond the legal frameworks to practical and realistic interventions on the ground. We welcome the review of the National Youth Policy and congratulate the Government of Zimbabwe on agreeing with young people in facilitating meaningful participation through the provision of a 25 percent youth quota which is necessary in defining the threshold of participation of young people in all sectors. 

Invitation to the Day of the African Child: 22 June HICC, Harare
The Minister of Youth Development, Indigenization & Empowerment, the Zimbabwe Youth Council, and UNICEF Zimbabwe cordially invite all children and young people, youth development stakeholders, government departments, and the general public to the celebrations of the Day of the African Child which will witness the launch of the National Youth Policy by His Excellency the President, Cde R.G Mugabe and the Official Opening of the 21st Session of the Child Parliament by His Excellency the Child President Mr Nthando Moyo.

For more information contact:

Melody Mbira-Harry, ZYC Communications Manager, Tel: +2634788347, Email: melodymbira@gmail.com

Victor Chinyama, UNICEF Chief of Communications, Tel: +263 4703941/42, Mobile: +263 772 124 268, Email: vchinyama@unicef.org

 

 
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