The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, UNICEF and the Zimbabwe Economics Society today convened a High-Level Policy Dialogue on Child Protection Financing in Zimbabwe. The Dialogue is part of the Child Budgeting Series initiated by UNICEF and Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe. The meeting today comes at a pivotal moment as many children face protection issues in Zimbabwe and funding for the child protection sector is lagging.
The High-Level Policy Dialogue on Child Protection Financing included a panel discussion with Hon Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima, Hon Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr Clemence Chiduwa, the Ambassador of Netherlands to Zimbabwe, H.E. Dr. Margret Verwijk, the Ambassador of Sweden to Zimbabwe, H.E. Ms Åsa Pehrson and UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Ms Lieke van de Wiel.
The meeting was co-convened by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, Mr Simon Masanga, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, and President of the Zimbabwe Economics Society, Dr Nigel Chanakira.
The event allowed the exchange of knowledge and generated recommendations to shape and improve national and subnational policy interventions and investments in the child protection sector, including through the national budget process as well as development partner support. The Dialogue was live streamed allowing people throughout the country to follow the event and participate in the discussion.
“This High-Level Policy Dialogue on Child Protection Financing is of critical importance as children in Zimbabwe face many protection issues, including child marriage, violence against children and child labour,” said Hon Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima.
According to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted by the Government of Zimbabwe with support from UNICEF and partners, one woman out of three in Zimbabwe aged 20 to 49 was married before the age of 18, and 5% of girls were married before the age of 15.
Poverty is a major correlation of child abuse and exploitation, including child marriage. Poverty is also the main trigger of child labour in Zimbabwe. Nearly one child out of three between 5 and 17 years in the country is engaged in child labour, involving particularly young boys living in rural areas, as well as children living with disabilities. Zimbabwe also faces widespread violence against children, with two-thirds of girls and three-quarters of boys experiencing physical violence by a parent or an adult relative.
“Zimbabwe has a significantly developed child protection legal and institutional framework, including through the Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment (No. 20) Act and the Children’s Act. The latter includes provisions for the protection, welfare, and supervision of children, and establishes a Child Welfare Fund. The country has also acceded to or domesticated several international and regional commitments ensuring the protection rights of children, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” highlighted Dr Nigel Chanakira, President of the Zimbabwe Economics Society.
The country’s National Case Management System strives to ensure children who experience violence, abuse and exploitation get access to comprehensive and quality protection and welfare services. It serves as a collaborative framework between the state social workers at national, provincial and district levels, community childcare workers and non-government child protection actors who provide specialized child services.
“UNICEF recognizes the good work being done by the Government on the issue of child protection. The notable achievements include a developed child protection legal, policy and institutional framework, as well as the strengthening of the provision of child protection services through the roll out of the National Case Management System in all districts,” said Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe.
The Government of Zimbabwe is funding many child protection interventions, including through the introduction of additional child-focused social protection programmes such as tuition grants, provision of sanitary wear in schools, school feeding programme and the establishment of the learner welfare programme under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
However, the overall child protection spending, both direct and indirect, has been low. To complement Government efforts, development partners have contributed significantly over the years towards child protection in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, recent trends have witnessed declining investments of development partners in the child protection sector.
“Investing in child protection is smart economics. Children subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse are at increased risk of poor physical and psychological health, often perform poorly in school and are more likely to be a drag to the socio-economic development of a country. So, as committed in the National Development Strategy 1, the Government strives to enhance resourcing of the child protection services,” said Hon Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr Clemence Chiduwa.
The child protection sector in Zimbabwe is confronted by several challenges that negatively impact the provision and access to services. The current macro-economic challenges facing the country have not spared key child protection services, limiting investments required and appropriate soft and hard infrastructure that facilitate access and delivery of critical child protection services.