FULL TEXT: Establish District Juvenile Justice System, PYCD Tells Zim Govt
16 June 2021

Platform for Youth and Community Development Trust (PYCD) joins the world in celebrating the day of the African Child. The day of the African Child is commemorated every year on the 16th of June. The theme for this year in 2021 reads, 30 YEARS AFTER THE ADOPTION OF THE CHARTER: ACCELERATE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 2040 FOR AN AFRICA FIT FOR CHILDREN.

This theme resonates well with the work of PYCD that has been endured for over a decade. In commemorating this year’s edition, PYCD acknowledges various efforts made by government and the civic society in the region in trying to protect and uplift the welfare of the African child.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe as adopted in 2013, read together with various statutes and institutional frameworks on child rights have been promulgated with sensitivity that is child –friendly to all forms of ill-treatment and abuse. PYCD is saddened that despite all these efforts, the challenges affecting the African child remains glaring and far from over. These child-friendly rights continue to be pinned down due to the existence of harmful cultural and religious practices that have taken precedence over the law.

In our decade of existence, PYCD has realised that the aspirations of the African Charter for the rights and welfare of the child, as ratified by over 50 states are still to be realised, due to the absence of safety measures that are linked to lack of preparedness at the level of the majority of African governments. All things being equal, the charter provides for both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, yet these remain aspirational without being realised. The prevalence of natural disasters such as droughts, pandemics, human error and mismanagement of natural resources make life harder for children who remains vulnerable and neglected.

Zimbabwe has recently been a victim of cyclones such as Cyclone Idai, Cyclone Eloise and Cyclone Chalane whose impact on children has been devastating. This has been made even worse by the coming in of the Covid-19 pandemic. Children have been left vulnerable to abuses such as sexual exploitation and poverty. Many children have been forced out of school or thrown far away from the protection of their parents due to the impact of the pandemic. We continue to witness and read increasing cases of children who are being abducted or murdered for ritual purposes. The upsurge of child marriages is also due to the instigation of some religious and cultural beliefs, acts which continue to destroy the dignity of the child.

During this year, PYCD has promoted discussion and dialogue involving learners from selected high schools in Chipinge district. In partnership with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the project has facilitated some of the learners to participate in an essay competition with the topic. “Ending Child Marriages in Zimbabwe”. This is our contribution in a small way as we seek to confront one of the most debilitating interference to the rights of children namely, the right to education, the right to health as well as the right to information. This intervention is aimed at involving the young women and girls to actively participate in the campaign to end child marriages by 2030.

PYCD is sad to report that some of our lined up activities to commemorate the day of the African Child are now in limbo due to Covid-19 preventative measures announced by the Vice President Mr Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health. The activities that have been suspended include soccer and netball tournaments that were scheduled for the 19th of June 2021. The idea of soccer and netball was seeking to allow young people to come together and receive speeches and messages on the importance of the day. It is also aimed to inspire and positively influence young people to co-exist and cooperate to achieve sustainable community.

In the best interest of the child, PYCD therefore recommends the following
• That the government of Zimbabwe expedite the promulgation of all relevant laws to address juvenile justice issues including establishing a district criminal justice system for children
• That the government of Zimbabwe fully align the children’s Act to the constitution ,including reviewing the Children’s Act to incorporate and ensure that the justice Mechanism system embrace the best interests of the child as paramount in all matters concerning the child
• That the government expand pre-trial diversion programmes and invest in Children ‘s education for a better post-coronavirus world