Children from every stratum of society are exposed to physical, sexual and psychological violence, abuse and exploitation. The 2011 National Baseline Survey on Adolescent’s Life Experiences (NBSLEA) shows that age and gender are key determinants of vulnerability, with over a third of girls experiencing sexual violence before their 18th birthday. The report further states that girls are almost three times more likely to experience sexual abuse than boys while other types of violence (e.g. physical and emotional) affect boys and girls equally.
The level of risk may also not be the same for all girls. The NSBLEA finds that double-orphaned girls are twice more likely to experience sexual violence than non-orphan girls. Disability is another factor that puts girls at higher risk of sexual violence. The Living Conditions among Persons with Disability Survey found that females with disability were twice more likely to experience sexual abuse compared with their male counterparts. It also revealed that females with disability were twice more likely to face sexual violence than females without disability.
The NBSLEA data also shows that socio-economic status is another determinant of children’s susceptibility to violence and abuse. It found that girls from the poorest income quintiles were at increased risk of emotional abuse and five times more likely to experience pressured sex than their richer counterparts. Likewise, boys in the lower and middle socio-economic classes were at risk of increased risk of physical abuse, while the poorest were at the greatest risk.
The 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) showed that almost 63 percent of children aged 1-14 years experienced psychological aggression or physical punishment in the month before the survey. The data also showed that child marriage was an issue for girls in Zimbabwe, whereas male child marriage was negligible.
UNICEF’s child protection programme supports attainment of the vision of the National Action Plan for Children that by 2020, all children should live in a safer and more conducive environment that ensures their care and protection and supports their sound growth and development. UNICEF works to achieve this goal through supporting household economic security, expanding access to quality social services, and strengthening child protection and safeguarding.