NGO trains children to fight abuse

Defence for Children International Zimbabwe (DCIZ) has blamed ‘well-wishers’ for the rising cases of child abuse.

The chief executive, Elfas Mcloud Zadzagomo, said some 'co-called' well-wishers who visit desperate people in places such as Chingwizi Transit Camp and children on the streets, allegedly to help, end up abusing the intended beneficiaries.

“We have learnt with dismay that people supposedly assisting people at Chingwizi were among those accused in the rising number of cases of sexual abuse,” he said.

At Chingwizi, villagers accused soldiers and other government officials responsible for the distribution of food rations and rescue operations of luring hungry, under-age victims with food rations and then abusing them. Fearing arrests, sources said, perpetrators have since offered to marry some of the girls.

On the streets, Zadzagomo said, perpetrators target girl vendors and those living on the streets. They abuse them using money as bait. The prevailing harsh economic situation forces victims to comply.

According to the NGO, abuse is also rampant at mines where ‘illegal’ miners ‘Makorokoza’ coerce girls into sexual relations. According to police statistics, some 5,000 children are sexually abused annually.

To fight the abuse, DCIZ has embarked on a nationwide Child Rights and Advocacy Campaign, to inform children and parents about the importance of child protection. The campaign covers topics such as Child Growth and Development, Children’s rights and a Child Friendly Environment.

The DCIZ's target is 15,000 children for the campaign. The children will, in turn, enlighten their peers on relevant issues. It is estimated that one informed child could spread the message to 30 others downstream. Perpetrators will be among the participants as some of them were once victims themselves.

The Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children recently said it would roll out a campaign to educate communities about the need to protect the vulnerable, which includes children.

Cultural values, child abuse and economic hardship have forced 31% of young girls into traumatic, early marriages, according to the ZNCWC.With such sad developments there is a need to scale up child protection through the assistance of relevant preventive committees.

“Committees should be set up to expose cases of child abuse lest perpetrators go unpunished,” said Taylor Nyanhete, ZNCWC national director.

UNICEF, in partnership with some NGOs, supports a national campaign of 'Zero Tolerance to Child Abuse.' As part of the campaign UNICEF supports training workshops and contributed towards the production and distribution of 10,000 music cassettes with messages linking HIV/AIDS to child abuse.

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