UN envoy urges improved child protection, empowerment strategies

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By Anna Chibamu

UN Resident Coordinator Maria Rebeiro says child protection and violence remain huge challenges in Zimbabwe.

She was speaking at the launch of Plan International Zimbabwe’s Country Strategy 2019-2024 in Harare on Thursday.

Rebeiro called for interaction, strong partnerships and innovative solutions to help solve problems that have left many boys and girls vulnerable.

She also bemoaned poverty, violence and discrimination against the young and vulnerable while urging stakeholders to invest in girls especially.

“It is sad to note that globally, one in five girls is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, violence and discrimination. Every day, girls are taken out of school, married far too young, and subjected to violence.

“This is a violation of their rights, and a huge waste of potential with serious consequences. Yet, we know that investing in girls has the potential to transform the lives of entire communities and countries,” said Rebeiro.

Added the UN official, “The challenge on child protection particularly that of the girl child in Zimbabwe is no different from the global challenges.”

Rebeiro said the latest National Adolescent Fertility Study shows that almost a quarter of adolescent girls aged 15-19 (24%) have started childbearing.

Rural adolescent girls aged 15-19 are more likely to become pregnant (143 births per 1,000 adolescent girls aged 15-19) compared to their urban counterparts (75 births).

“Violence against children remains a challenge in Zimbabwe. In 2018, Childline received a total of 25,000 cases (15,000 through the helpline and 10,000 through drop in). Of these cases 66% were on protection while 34% were on welfare (Childline 2018 Annual Report). Sexual abuse accounted for 26%, physical abuse 20%, neglect 17%, emotional abuse 17% and 20% other forms of abuse.”

To manages the challenges, she said, there was need for interaction, strong partnerships and innovative solutions.