Ministerial Statement - 04 Oct 2017 - Commercial Child Sexual Exploitation in Harare

In the National Assembly

Wednesday 4th October 2017

 

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

RECORDED COMMERCIAL CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION IN HARARE

THE MINISTER OF PUBLIC SERVICE, LABOUR AND SOCIAL SERVICES (HON. MUPFUMIRA): Thank you Madam Speaker.  I want to thank you for the opportunity to give a Ministerial Statement on the recorded commercial child sexual exploitation in Harare.  Indeed, it had been reported that this vice is countrywide.

              Madam Speaker, allow me to acknowledge with thanks Hon. Members of this august House, in particular, Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who moved a motion and debated on the subject.  The swift movement of this House and the subsequent outcries, point to a House working flat out to deliver on the mandate to the people, we thank you.  It is our fervent hope as a Ministry that this House embraces and supports some of our recommendations which we will table. 

              Madam Speaker, following the publication of an audio recording on Star FM Radio Station, regarding children said to be engaging in transactional sex, we led a delegation to launch an investigation of the case through engaging the Radio Station and Katswe Sisterhood which had sponsored the programme.  I wish to categorically state that my Ministry has been working well with Katswe Sisterhood. There has been collaboration and complementary efforts with the organisation.  The Minister went personally to the office of Katswe to engage them and we are working together. 

              After these initial investigations, our officers and the Katswe representatives went and removed 73 children to date from Hopley and Epworth.  From the 73 children, 54 were from Hopley and 19 from Epworth.  After the removal of the children, the Ministry hosted a dialogue on the 25th of September, 2017 after a Cabinet directive.  The Minister reported to Cabinet and a directive was given that we need to set up a national taskforce, which is responsible for the creation of an environment that is responsive to the needs of children so that they are prevented from being sexually exploited for commercial or any other reason for that matter. 

              The following Ministries relevant for child protection were nominated to be part of the taskforce, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ministry of Rural Development Promotion and Preservation of National Culture and Heritage and the Ministry of Local Government. 

              Our Ministry is partnering with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and other partners have been carrying out night assessments in Epworth, Caledonia, Mabvuku and the last exercise was done on the 1st of October, 2017.  Since the first blitz, no children have since been identified.  The exercise will be rolled out to all the 10 provinces of the country and is being treated as an urgent matter.  All the identified children were initially placed at a safe house where a one stop service centre was set up by our Ministry. 

              The children have been profiled by social workers within the department of Social Welfare. Profiling is part of the needs assessment, which is an initial stage towards a holistic rehabilitation approach.  The services that these children are receiving range from therapeutic, psychosocial sessions, medical assessments, education and other special needs required by the children.

            Our staff have been providing other basic needs of the children like accommodation, food and cleaning.  To date, our Ministry has engaged other organisations to offer their specialised services to the children and they are as follows:

·       Zimbabwe Republic Police, Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) who are assisting with referrals for age estimations for children without birth certificates to the Ministry of Health and Child Care;

·       Childline Zimbabwe which is offering individual counselling services to all the children on an ongoing basis;

·       Mavambo Orphan Care is assisting in the identification and training of additional community childcare workers in the affected areas;

·       Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) is providing medical examinations;

·       Family Support Trust (FST) is offering medical examinations and psychosocial support;

·       Child Protection Society is training children and caregivers on child rights and child safeguarding.  They are also providing funding for tracing and reunification.  The organisations also donated sports kits.

·       REPSSI is offering group therapy programmes.

·       Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWA) donated food and toiletries.

FINDINGS FROM THE ASSESSMENTS CARRIED OUT

From the needs assessments that were carried out, 71 girls were school drop outs due to financial hardships in their families.  Two girls from Epworth were in school and are sitting for their O’ level this October.

Health

·       Medical examinations were conducted by partners.

·       From the 73 children, 28 were not sexually exploited, the rest of them had been sexual exploited.

·       One of the girls is on Anti-Retroviral Treatment

IDENTITY

Twenty five (25) girls do not have birth certificates.

IDENTIFIED POSSIBLE CAUSES OF CHILDREN BEING COMMERCIALLY SEXUALLY EXPLOITED.

Through engaging the children the following were noted to be the causes of commercial child sexual exploitation;

·       Poverty

·       Coercion by caregivers

·       Lack of supervision

·       Dropping out of school

·       Peer pressure

·       Drug abuse

·       Orphanhood

·       Abandonment by parents or caregivers due to the above, children have resorted to performing in dance groups in beer halls by making themselves even more vulnerable. 

INTERVENTION STRATEGIES

Our Ministry with the assistance of child protection partners has been offering rehabilitation programmes for all the children.  These programmes have been done through the following outlined activities;

·       All the identified 73 children were removed from risk to a place of safety (Domboshava Training Centre).

·       The children were all profiled, which is a needs assessment exercise.

·       15 children who were not yet sexual exploited were removed from Domboshava and placed in children’s homes in Harare.

·       Management of their rehabilitation process is being done from these homes.  These children are in need of care as they were exposed to immoral behaviours.

·       The children are receiving ongoing counselling and psychosocial support.

·       The 2 girls that were enrolled in school were reunified with their families since they had registered to sit for O’ level examinations in October 2017.

·       10 girls who are above 18 years were taken to Ruwa National Rehabilitation Centre for vocational skills training.

·       Family assessments are being carried out for all the children to assess risk and to provide social protection support services to the identified vulnerable households.

At the moment, Domboshava Training Centre is housing 46 children.  These will be placed in ideal homes soon after the final assessments and identification of suitable homes. 

Challenges

·       Inadequate resources to meet the demand for social protection services for example Public Assistance (PA) which is a monthly allowance for vulnerable families, has not been funded since 2015 and in 2017 an allocation of US$150 000 was done by Treasury.  In commending Treasury for this disbursement, we must highlight that it has not been adequate.

·       High caseloads for Government social workers, who currently have a social worker to child ratio of 1:14 000 children in the country.

·       There is an urgent need to establish more Government schools in new urban settlements such as Hopley, Caledonia and Stoneridge, as thousands of children live in these areas.

·       Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) only pays fees for children enrolled in Government schools leaving out children enrolled in private colleges in these settlements.

·       BEAM has arrears dating back from 2014 amounting to US$87 256 828, yet the number of children requiring assistance continues to grow.  In 2017 BEAM programme was only allocated US$10m.  There is need for increased allocations to this programme.

·       Sprouting of unregistered public places of entertainment such as shebeens, have hindered operations of social workers and the police who should inspect these places as a child protection measure, there is KwaAnthony in Hopely, Booster in Epworth and in Hatcliff, Zvamada, all these places need to be visited. 

·       Sprouting of unregistered public places of entertainment such as shebeens, have hindered operations of social workers and the police who should inspect these places as a child protection measure.

·       Mobility of social workers is currently hampered as the Ministry has a serious shortage of vehicles to carry out inspections.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1.     There is need for more resources to strengthen the social protection programmes such as Public Assistance, Food Deficit Mitigation, BEAM and Harmonised Social Cash Transfers.

2.    There should be social services at schools, clinics, police stations in all new settlements. 

3.    Recruitment of more social workers for effective service delivery in preventive and curative programmes.

4.    Enforcement of registration of all unregistered public places of entertainment operating in the areas with assistance from the local authority and Zimbabwe Republic Police.

5.    All Government Ministries and Partners to verify registration status or organisations before funding them.

6.    To facilitate birth registration for all the children who do not have birth certificates.

7.    Procure vehicles for the Ministry to carry out regular patrols and inspections across the country.  I thank you Mr. Speaker. 

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