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Zimbabwe, 20 June 2015: President opens the 23rd Session of the Child Parliament with a call to ending child marriages

© UNICEF/2015/Richard Nyamanhindi
Child President, Graham Nyarenda inspects the Junior National Guard

20 June 2015, HARARE, Zimbabwe – President Robert Mugabe today officially opened the 23rd Session of the Child Parliament with a call to ending child marriages, which he described as a barrier to national development and children’s growth.

Speaking at the Parliament Building in Harare, the President said girls should not be seen as ripe for marriage judging by their physical appearance while castigating some members of the Apostolic Sects and traditional leaders who he accused of preying on young and vulnerable girls.

“Child marriages are causing irreparable damage to young girls in Zimbabwe and Africa at large and are denying them the right to personal development, especially among some Apostolic Sects that deny their children the right to education and health,” President Mugabe said.

The President also lamented the rise in child prostitution in some parts of the country which he blamed on the current economic environment.

President Mugabe also said government is mandated to putting children’s rights high on the national agenda, including ensuring their safety, right to health and education.

He also commended child parliamentarians for exhibiting fluency and maturity in the motions and debates they tabled during the official opening of the 23rdSession of the Children’s Parliament.

The Child President, Graham Nyarenda called on Government to quickly address the scourge of child marriage in Zimbabwe as it was one of the major factors holding back the girl child.

“Child marriage is a very difficult reality for many girls especially those in rural Zimbabwe and it needs to be addressed urgently,” said the Child President.

“We call on the Government to address the socio-economic causes that force children into marriage by making sure that children remain in school and the legal system is revamped to protect children against this scourge.”

The Child President also appealed for collaborative efforts to safeguard vulnerable children who end up being exploited or are forced to marry at a tender age.

Responding to some of the issues raised by the Child Parliamentarians, Vice President and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Honourable Emmerson Mnangagwa said parents are responsible for the sponsorship of their children’s needs and government is committed to ensuring the fulfilment of human rights for children under the Bill of Rights.

The Vice President also said international instruments on children’s rights such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child are closely monitored by the government to ensure compliance.

He added that the inter-ministerial taskforce on human rights is actively engaged in ensuring the various requirements under the children’s rights are adhered to and implemented.

Vice President Mnangagwa also said as government they agree with the motion tabled by the Child Parliamentarians that minors should not be forced into marriages and urged the children to set high ambitions in life through acquiring higher educational qualifications so that they have a better life.

Other ministers who responded to issues raised by Child Parliamentarians included the Honourable Patrick Chinamasa (Finance and Economic Development), Honourable Lazarus Dokora (Primary and Secondary Education), Honourable Prisca Mupfumira (Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare) and Honourable Christopher Mushohwe (Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment).

The Zimbabwe Child Parliament which mirrors the National Parliament set-up where every constituency in the country has a child parliamentarian representative, was established in 1991 as a way of commemorating the Day of the African Child on June 16 each year.

The programme allows children to participate in the national agenda, while addressing concerns affecting children in Zimbabwe.

Today the Child Parliament and the nation belatedly celebrated the Day of the African Child which is running under the theme, 25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa.

The Day of the African Child came into being following a declaration by the African Union Heads of State as an important day in commemoration of the 1976 protests by schoolchildren in Soweto, South Africa.

The students protested against an education system designed to further the purposes of the apartheid regime. The brutal response of the apartheid security agencies to the unarmed students’ protests resulted in the death of a number of children.

The 1976 protests contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of the apartheid regime. In 1991, the African Union Assembly passed a resolution designating June 16 as a day for the celebration of the African child.

 

 
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