Child labour has been on the rise in recent years in Zimbabwe fueled by poverty, missing parents, poor legislation and a lack of social services. Child labour jeopardizes the physical, mental or moral well-being of a child and perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty within communities.
Hivos Southern Africa Hub has been partnering with the Coalition against Child Labour in Zimbabwe (CACLAZ) to bolster efforts to stem child labour through the promotion of area based zones that shun child labour in both rural and urban settings.
At a meeting held recently in Epworth, a sprawling high-density town located approximately 12 kilometres out of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, community representatives emphasized the need to strengthen efforts to combat child labour in the area.
Established more than a century ago, in 1890, Epworth has witnessed a large influx of people over the past three decades. Its expansion has been largely unplanned. Poverty is rife in Epworth and many children are forced to engage in child labour for survival.
In fact, according to CACLAZ, the number of children involved in child labour in Harare at large has swelled to 12 per cent of the child population and most of engage in child labour to supplement family income.
Due to the prevalence of child labour in Epworth, the town was selected in 2014 as a pilot area for the implementation of an urban focused child labour free zone concept. A child labour free zone is a defined area, such as a village or a plantation, where teachers, local authorities, village leaders, employers, parents and children in these zones work together to get children out of work and into school. Child labour is no longer accepted because all children are entitled to good, full-time education.
The community meeting involved stakeholders in the Harare Urban Child Labour Free Zone including the Kubatana Primary School Development Committee, the councillor and her ward development committee, the District Department of Social Services, the ward child protection committee, youth officers, village health workers and volunteers.The Kubatana Primary School will serve an an incubation centre for integrating children involved in child labour into the conventional educational system. The incubation centre is expected to provide services such as counselling, health checks, accelerated tuition, family reunion among many others.
“Some parents of the affected children are divorced. Some girls as young as 12 years are engaging in prostitution to supplement family incomes. Step parents can be very abusive to children sending them to do work to make money. Many parents in Epworth are vendors and cannot afford to send their children to school,” said Noma Branga, 39, a volunteer with CACLAZ.
Another volunteer, Rita Karimazondo, 43, said that the problem of child labour was endemic to Epworth.
“During an enumeration exercise to determine the extend of the problem, we discovered that children were being forced to do jobs that are difficult and demanding and even morally reprehensible,” said Karimazondo. “Take some girl for example, are being made to sell eggs in bars where they are exposed to potential abuse. Yet children are supposed to be in school. Some of the children are so engaged in child labour they have no time to play.”
Hivos’ Stop Child Labour Technical Advisor, Akky de Kort, who participated in the community meeting said that the overall aim of the project is to ensure that every child in Epworth’s Ward 5 has the right to a good education, the right to play and the right to really be a child.
“The Stop Child Labour Coalition is a location of six international non governmental organizations and trade unions in the Netherlands, and all these do have their partner organizations in African countries but also in Nicaragua and India where they work in order to get children to school and out of child labour,” she said.
“An area based approach mean all children need to go back to school. We work with all the actors to make sure all children are back in school otherwise they are all potential laborers. We try to build from the start a sense of ownership. It’s the local community that can ensure sustainability.”