The Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Harare Metropolitan Province, Honourable Miriam Chikukwa;
The Child Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Harare Metropolitan Province, Honourable Nathan Zindikhali, our Guest of Honour;
The National Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Zimbabwe, Mrs Knowledge Chikando;
Commissioners from the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission here present; Commissioners Kwanele Jirira and Petunia;
Development Partners here present;
Acting Executive Secretary of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Mr. Vengesai Erick Mukutiri;
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare;
Directors of Government Ministries here present;
Officials from the Youth Council;
Director of Waterfalls SOS Village, Mr. S. Warikandwa;
The District Administrator;
The ZHRC Secretariat
Staff of SOS, Chinyaradzo, Jairos Jiri, Upenhu Hutsva, Chiedza and other Childcare Centres here present
Performing Artists and our MC
All Children here resent
All protocols observed
May I take this opportunity to welcome you all to this important event which the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), in partnership with the SOS Children’s Village including its outreach programme has organized to commemorate as belated, the Day of the African Child. Among us are also caregivers and children from surrounding Childcare homes – Chinyaradzo, Jairos Jiri, Upenhu Hutsva and Chiedza.
This year’s commemorations come 3 years after the adoption of a home-grown Constitution, which prioritises children’s rights and has a separate section, Section 81, which spells out the rights of children, that is, people under the age of 18. This is in addition to treaties on children’s rights the country is party to namely the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). The Constitution of Zimbabwe calls on the government to adopt policies and measures to ensure that in matters relating to children, the best interests of children are considered prioritized. Ngatikoshese zvakanakira vana pazvinhu zvose zvatinoita.
As human beings we are born with certain rights. The rights are ours because we are human beings. We have the right to life, to be free, to be secure, not to be discriminated, right to our language and culture (which organisations like Chipawo here try to preserve), right to education, healthcare, shelter, food and water. We have right to documents such as birth certificates and passports, the right to information and the list goes on. Our government through the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, produced an abridged version of the Constitution, which I urge you children to read so that you are fully aware of these rights.
The ZHRC is one of the five Independent Commissions established by our Constitution with a mandate to promote, protect and enforce human rights. Among other functions the ZHRC, raises awareness of human rights at all levels of society, be it national, community, school or family level. It is also ZHRC’s function to visit institutions like refugee camps and children’s homes to ensure human rights are observed in these institutions. The Commission receives complaints from people on human rights and freedoms, so parents, guardians and caregivers can lodge complaints to the Commission on behalf of children, but as children you can actually do so yourselves.
As you may be aware, The Day of the African Child (DAC) is commemorated every year on 16th June by Member States of the African Union (AU) and so these commemorations are belated. Day of the African Child is commemorated in remembrance of the 1976 Soweto Uprising which were a series of protests in South Africa by high school students against the introduction of a foreign language, Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in all schools and the very inferior education system for African children. Apartheid South Africa police used brutal force against the children killing hundreds of them. This incident showed the bravery of children to stand up for their education related rights and now long after, we observe this event to celebrate children in Africa. So this celebration is for you children.
The 2016 theme for the commemorations is: “Conflict and Crisis in Africa. Protecting all Children’s Rights”.This themecalls upon the Government, Development Partners, the Commission, Childcare Centre, schools, families, and everyone toensure children are protected, particularly where there is crisis, and conflict. Our abilities as human beings evolve with age. I note that while many children in Africa and in our country are able to thrive and develop, many times children are caught up in crisis situations in different spheres of life. Some children suffer due to poverty, conflict, natural disasters, and harmful practices such as child marriages. Many children experience and are affected by various forms ofabuse, including child labour, sexual abuse, physical abuse, child trafficking and gender discrimination in education and the negative impact of armed conflict.
The current El Nino – induced drought in Zimbabwe has created a food crisis that is threatening children’s right to life, survival and development. In addition, the HIV AIDS Pandemic has left children particularly those in child headed households with limited social safety nets. ZHRC notes with concern the deteriorating economic conditions in the country which threatens realization of children’s rights such as the right to education, shelter, health care, and other social services. The Commission therefore, urges the Government of Zimbabwe to promote children’s rights by adequately funding education, health and basic social services.
The Commission recognizes the sterling work SOS Children’s Villages and other Childcare centres represented here do to fulfil and safeguard children’s rights. SOS Family Strengthening and Outreach programmes go a long way in enabling children at risk of losing parental care to grow up within a caring family environment. SOS has been closely cooperating with families and communities to empower them to effectively protect and care for their children. Children are at much greater risk of being abandoned when parents are unable to pay for basic necessities such as food, clean water, health care and education among many others. Such risk of being abandoned is even higher for children born with disabilities and albinism. The ZHRC commits to continue looking for resources to operationalise the Thematic Working Group on Children’s Rights and expand the work of the Special Interest Groups Thematic Working Group involving children with disabilities.
Whilst as children you have rights, which you will learn more about in a later session, you also have duties and responsibilities towards your families, society and the State. In African society rights come with duties and responsibilities and as children you are expected, depending on your ages and abilities, to respect parents and elders at all times, serve your communities and preserve and strengthen the independence, integrity and unity of Africa and its cultural values.
May I conclude by calling upon our Government to expedite completion of the alignment of the Children’s Act and other pieces of legislation on children to the Constitution. I call upon all stakeholders to continue prioritise the best interests of the child in all decisions we take as adults. The future success of any nation depends on how it invests in its children.
I wish you all a pleasant and enjoyable day.
I thank you