Child Protection: Let children grow up safely!
All children have the right to grow up in a safe environment free from violence, abuse and exploitation to develop their full potential.
Let children grow up safely!
Children experience various forms of violence, exploitation and abuse. It happens in every country, even where children should be most protected – their homes, schools and online. Violence against children can be physical, emotional or sexual. And in many cases, children suffer at the hands of the people they trust.
No matter the circumstance, every child has the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Protecting children means protecting their physical, mental and psychosocial needs to safeguard their futures. Child protection systems connect children to vital social services and fair justice systems – starting at birth. They provide care to the most vulnerable.
We are all responsible for ensuring our children can grow up free from violence, exploitation and abuse; as parents, caregivers, teachers, health workers, community leaders, religious leaders or government officials. First, we need to prevent violence, exploitation and abuse. And when it occurs, we must provide children affected with the required support to rebuild their lives so that they can go on with their future.
Zimbabwe has made substantial progress on many child protection issues, including the recent adoption of legislation criminalising child marriage, improvement in birth registration and the roll-out of a child-friendly justice system.
Nevertheless, many children in Zimbabwe continue not to grow up safely. It starts from the very beginning when children are born without being registered. In Zimbabwe, over half of all children are still not registered at birth. Non-registered children are invisible and particularly vulnerable to abuse. They are often refrained from access to basic social services.
Several forms of violence against children are prevalent in Zimbabwe. Almost two out of every three children experience some form of violent discipline—nearly one-third of children as young as five up to 17 years are working. More than one out of ten are working under hazardous conditions. One in three girls under 18 experience sexual violence leading to teen pregnancy and early marriage. 21% of girls 15-18 are married or in unions.
Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse. They face multiple challenges and barriers to accessing social services, including health, education, nutrition, water, sanitation, and economic opportunities. As their communities are not adapted to them, they are often excluded and face mental health challenges. Through a disability-inclusive parenting programme piloted in 13 districts in 2022, UNICEF and partners empowered nearly 6,000 parents to advocate for disability inclusion in community structures such as schools and health centres.
48 % of children under five are registered at birth
64% of children (aged 1-14 years) experience physical punishment and/or psychological aggression
21% of girls are married or in a union
44 % of parents think physical punishment is needed to raise children
28% of children are engaged in child labour
10% of children with disabilities are enrolled in school
68,000 children accessed care and protection services through community childcare workers (in 2022)
17,000 child offenders and victims received child-friendly justice services (in 2022)
Being embedded in communities and in close contact with households where children grow up, community childcare workers play an important role in preventing violence against children. They are also the first line of response for children in harm's way. Working closely with children and families, they identify and manage risks children may face at home and elsewhere. In Zimbabwe , community childcare workers promote children’s physical and psychological well-being by connecting them with critical social services and challenging harmful norms that violate their rights. In 2022 UNICEF and partners placed case management officers in 14 districts and mentored community childcare workers, resulting in 68,000 children accessing care and protection services, including 7,000 children with disabilities.
When children are victims of violence, witness a crime, or are accused as having committed a crime, they interact with the justice system. Justice needs to be adapted to the children they deal with. A child-friendly justice must ensure child-sensitive investigations and court procedures, promote and support restorative justice approaches, advance alternatives to pre-trial and post-trial detention, provide recovery and reintegration services, and empower children to claim their rights. For child offenders, detention always needs to be the last resort. In 2022 in Zimbabwe, UNICEF and partners trained 1,245 justice professionals resulting in 17,000 child offenders and victims receiving child-friendly justice services.
UNICEF works in close collaboration with the Government of Zimbabwe for the implementation of its child protection programmes. Funding for the child protection programmes comes from various donors, including the Child Protection Fund III, Sweden, the European Union and USAID.