UNICEF, Government of Zimbabwe launches Situational Analysis on the Status on Women’s and Children’s Rights
By Bertha Shoko
Harare, Zimbabwe 18 March 2011—Fourteen year old Tanaka Zoma from Musarava Primary School in Zaka, Masvingo is sitting for his Grade Seven examinations at the end of this year, two years later than most of his peers.
Tanaka has been in and out of school for the past two years of schooling since his mother passed away in 2009, leaving him to take care of his two younger brothers. This responsibility left him with not much time to attend school. Instead Tanaka used to take up piece jobs in his community; fetching water, herding cattle and helping out in fields in exchange of food items and in some cases, money. This was in addition to growing their own food on the small plot at their homestead.
“My brothers and I never went to bed hungry since my mother died, because I took it upon myself to work hard,” says Tanaka his voice carrying so much responsibility for a child. “But having all this responsibility meant that I had no time for school.”
Now full time in school, thanks to the intervention of community members who are helping to look after him and his brothers and the Basic Education Assistance Module programme (BEAM), Tanaka has big dreams about his future.
“I want to be a doctor when I finish school because I know that with a doctor’s salary I can take care of myself and my brothers,” says Tanaka confidently who still has to work during the weekend for his upkeep.
The story of Tanaka and his brothers aptly summarises the plight of many children in child headed families across Zimbabwe, a situation so clearly articulated in the Situational Analysis on the Status of Women’s and Children’s Right (Sitan) launched on Thursday, 17 March 2011, by the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF and the Government of Zimbabwe. The report, which is a compilation of the latest data on the situation of women and children’s rights, shows that the status of women and children remains critical. It shows that worrying levels of poverty and vulnerability are limiting their access to basic social services and social protection.
It also notes that reduced access to basic social services, lack of social protection mechanisms, Gender Based Violence and child abuse are major impediments for women and children’s development. The Sitan also highlights that endemic poverty and HIV and AIDS is contributing to high levels of vulnerability. As the economy has faltered, the data from the Sitan demonstrates that the poorest quintile of the population has suffered the most in terms of declining access to services.
One in four children in Zimbabwe has lost one or both parents due to HIV and other causes. These children are being looked after by extended families and are among the 100 000 child headed households in the country. These children in child headed families, like Tanaka, often have to work to survive. Every day 100 children under the age of five and eight women are dying from mostly preventable deaths. More than a third of children face permanent limitation on their life and potential due to chronic malnutrition or stunting.
Announcing the findings of the Situational Analysis UNICEF Zimbabwe Country Representative Dr. Peter Salama called for urgent action to improve the status of women and children.
“Despite our collective effort the status of women and children of this country remains critical,” said Dr. Salama. “We must do everything possible to improve the lives of women and children.”
Speaking at the launch of the Situational Analysis the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Dr. Olivia Muchena said the ongoing constitution making presents a window of opportunity for Zimbabweans to address the social and economic disparities faced by women and children.
“We must maximise this opportunity,” she said.
At the launch of the Sitan delegates were shown a short video produced by UNICEF during the Special Children’s National Consultative Outreach Programme, conducted in Harare last year by the Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) with support from UNICEF. During the consultative process young people—representing all 63 districts of Zimbabwe- had the opportunity to air their views on what they want included in the new constitution. Among their many contributions, the young people said they wanted a new constitution that guarantees their access to education, health and social protection.
Dr. Muchena said she had been moved beyond words by the video which showed the high expectations of Zimbabwe’s children.
Delivering the key note address at the launch, the Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Honourable Thokozani Khupe said the Sitan should be considered a “blueprint” to address the challenges faced by women and children in Zimbabwe.
“Our progress as a Government should be measured by how successfully we have been in helping women and children, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, to realize their rights,” said Hon. Khupe.
“We must consider this Situational Analysis of Women and Children as a blue print for collective action to support the most pressing development priority of our times. As Government we remain committed to accelerate our efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals. It is increasingly clear that women and children are central to the achievements of the majority of these goals.”
The Sitan will help inform UNICEF and the Government of Zimbabwe’s priorities in the next country programme cycle beginning next year.