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24 September 2010: New report reveals children calling for child abusers to be held accountable

ZANZIBAR, 24 September 2010 - Hundreds of children from across Zanzibar have shared their ideas on the need for legislation to protect their rights in a government report released today. Children speak out on the need to ensure child abusers are held accountable and properly charged through the courts, for legislation to abolish demeaning and arbitrary corporal punishment in schools, to ensure child marriage is prevented and for the State to provide care and protection for children at greatest risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.

The report, published by the Ministry of Labour, Youth Women and Children Development with the support of UNICEF and Save the Children, is based on consultations with children held in May and June this year during preparations for the postponed Children Bill 2010. The consultation process aimed to equip children with an understanding of the content of the Children’s Bill and the legislative reform process, and to provide them with the opportunity to make critical suggestions on issues that affect their lives.

Launching the report the Minister for Labour, Youth, Women and Children Development, Hon Asha Abdallah Juma  noted, “This report shows us that participation is a fundamental human right and that children of Zanzibar can have a strong voice in creating our future.’

Children’s views reflected in the report are especially strong on issues of abuse. Children whole-heartedly condemned common practices that allow child abusers to escape without punishment. Reflecting on the horrific rape that tore her own world apart when she was 15 years old, a young woman called Maryam states in the report, “When such cases happen, the community should be made aware of the identity of the abusers, regardless of their status. The community has a duty to inform and help… so that justice can be done.”

The report reveals that “All young adults (who had been abused) stated that not being able to report their abuse to relevant authorities and being forced to remain silent had a dramatic impact on their self-esteem (feeling of guilt, powerless, injustice etc). All children stated that parents and extended family have the primary responsibility to such report cases and ensure that children are protected from further abuse. Two informants recount that their abuse was known about by at least two members of their families, who chose to withhold the information. Both interviewees never understood why, but never dared ask for an explanation.”

The children unanimously called for the establishment of dedicated family courts where children’s issues can be heard in an appropriate, private and supportive environment.

The consultations adopted a combined approach of group consultation and targeted individual interviews. Using existing child participation structures throughout all 10 districts in Zanzibar, 514 participants aged from 8 to 23 were consulted either through focus groups, peer to peer awareness raising and information sharing activities. Individual interviews were held with 60 children who were identified as most vulnerable or at risk, and who were considered to have had specific experience related to core issues covered by the proposed legislation.

The national report imparts strong qualitative data, compelling statements and case studies that convey children’s views, concerns and expectations on the protection of their rights, the challenges they face and the significance they attach to legislation aimed at promoting and protecting those entitlements.

Some Key Findings:

  • 85 percent of the children and young people consulted think it vital to have legislation protecting their rights and interests
  • 92 percent think that the State has a responsibility to protect children who are vulnerable and in need of care and protection
  • 77 percent described corporal punishment as a harmful, arbitrary and demeaning practice and over 80 percent call on the government to ban it in school and promote the use of alternative forms of discipline
  • The majority of those consulted believe that every child in Zanzibar has a right to live free from discrimination
  • 82 percent believe that they should participate in decisions that affect their lives
  • The majority of children and young people who took part in the consultation believe that in addition to rights they have duties to their families and communities

At the launch, the Hon Minister Asha Abdallah Juma stated, “The right laws and policies, properly resourced, implemented and enforced, are an essential foundation for protecting children from violence and promoting their survival, education and development. By developing and implementing a comprehensive Children’s Act the Government can make a real and positive impact on the lives of all children and their families in Zanzibar today and in the future.”

The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar identified UNICEF and Save the Children as key partners in the child law reform process. Ms Ruth Leano, representing UNICEF in Zanzibar, has welcomed the ‘strong commitment of the Revolutionary Government to develop and implement a comprehensive Children’s Act’ and noted that ‘UNICEF continues to look forward to collaborating with Government and all other relevant partners and stakeholders in working together to achieve the fullest protection and promotion of human rights for all children in Zanzibar’.

The child law reform process in Zanzibar has already received support from a wide variety of actors at Government, civil society and community level and will involve a collaborative and communal effort in working together to achieve a law that best reflects the specific needs and protection requirements of children in Zanzibar.

As Mubarak Maman, Programme Manager for Save the Children, Zanzibar remarked, “The drafting of legislation is not a legal process alone but one that requires support from all sectors of Zanzibar society working together’.’ Mr Maman thanked the children of Zanzibar who made the report possible whether as facilitators or participants, adding ‘their inputs and suggestions will hopefully contribute to giving voice to children in realizing their fundamental rights in Zanzibar’.

Prof Julia Sloth Nielsen, international child rights expert and advisor to the Zanzibar law reform process: ‘This process represents a real opportunity to draft a model children's rights law with a level of child participation that can serve as a benchmark to be used by many other countries with in the region. While Zanzibar may be small in terms of geographic size, the influence that this new child consultation for law reform can have throughout the world can be immense. Zanzibar can become a world leader in this sphere’.

It is hoped that the comprehensive Children’s Bill will be presented to the Zanzibar House of Representatives early in 2011.

For further information or a copy of the report “Capturing Children’s Views on the Children’s Bill 2010” please contact:

Mubarak Maman
Save the Children Zanzibar
Tel +255787357042

Shane Keenan
UNICEF Zanzibar
Tel +255765096858



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