Conference on Child-Sensitive Policies ends on a high note with children calling for more action against abuse and violence
By Richard Nyamanhindi
The International Conference on Child Sensitive Policies has ended in Zimbabwe with a call by researchers, children and development agencies for more action against abuse and violence on children.
The two-day conference meant to explore strategies for child sensitive policies in Africa was organized by the Women’s University in Africa in collaboration with UNICEF.
Held under the theme “Towards a Child Sensitive Society in Africa,” the conference explored various subjects such as child rights and culture, social inclusion, poverty and social budgeting, and protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse.
A number of children who presented on various topics during the conference noted with great concern the slow movement among development partners and government to move away from service delivery to research informed policy implementation and increasing children’s participation in policy arenas in such areas as budgeting and dealing with perpetrators of violence and abuse against children.
“Children from Zimbabwe need to have their voices heard either by directly participating in policy processes or through evidence that informs the policy process,” said Minenhle Nzana during plenary discussions at the conference.
Violence against children was prioritized by children as one of their most significant concerns that must be addressed urgently in the post conference agenda.
“Violence against children should be strictly condemned because a violence free childhood is the right of every child,” said Kudakwashe Mhundwa a pupil from Vainona High School in Harare.
The children also offered practical recommendations on how to end violence against children in Zimbabwe. The recommendations included increased efforts to support families so that all children can live in and be cared for by families, strengthen legislation, monitoring and reporting to respond to all forms of violence against children, including stricter enforcement of laws to punish perpetrators who abuse, harm or exploit children, ensure all children access safe schools where codes of conduct prevent and address violence and raise awareness to prevent all forms of violence against children.
In his closing remarks, the Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavima noted how it is important to always listen to the voices of children and as a government they were committed to providing the policy space to protect children in Zimbabwe.
“It is vital that we listen to the voices of children particularly on violence and abuse, and as a government we are prepared to put these issues on the policy agenda so that we protect our future leaders,” said the deputy minister.
The conference was built on the growing partnership between UNICEF and the Women’s University in Africa, which started when the university, with support from UNICEF, started offering a Post-Graduate Diploma in Child-Sensitive Social Policies in January 2013. The post graduate course aims at creating a pool of national experts who are capable of analysing and influencing public policy in favour of children and vulnerable communities and increase national capacities for research in child-sensitive policies, providing policy and decision-makers with the data and evidence necessary for informed decision-making. Since its launch, 44 individuals drawn from Government departments and NGOs working in the development sector have graduated.
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