JCT continues its advocacy at National level.
1.1. Raising Her Voice Documentary
JCT carried a research on the lived realities of the girl survivors of child sexual abuse which culminated in the production of a documentary. The documentary which is in the form of a booklet and a DVD shows the challenges that survivors of sexual abuse and violence face as they go through the formal justice system. A stakeholders’ dialogue conference where the documentary was launched was held in November 2014 and coincided with commemorations for the World Day against Child Abuse. The guest of honour was Member of Parliament and the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Honourable Jesse Majome. Hon. Majome called for stiffer penalties against perpetrators of sexual violence against women and girls and highlighted that her Committee was open to suggestions by the public and CSOs on proposed amendments to various laws that they are responsible for. The dialogue presented an opportunity for various stakeholders to discuss their roles and responsibilities in the protection of survivors of sexual abuse and violence. Using the documentary, JCT will continue to hold duty bearers accountable on their roles and responsibilities in the protection of survivors of sexual abuse and violence.
1.2. Victim Friendly System Committee Meetings
JCT is a member of the Victim Friendly System Committee at National and Provincial level. Meetings were therefore attended in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Chinhoyi and Bindura. The organisation managed to share some of the issues arising from its work with children. Issues of continued use of corporal punishment, the speedy investigation of sexual abuse cases, production of probation officers’ reports were deliberated during the meetings. The organisation used the meetings to promote the findings from the Raising her Voice documentary. The findings will strengthen the work of some of the stakeholders who work with survivors of sexual abuse and violence. The Chief Magistrate’s office has asked for the documentary to be distributed at the various Courts so that judicial officers will learn from the children’s experiences. The organisation continues to play a critical role in national advocacy with the National Victim Friendly System Committee tasking it to carry out a research on termination of pregnancy for children who are victims of Section 70 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. This continues to show the strength of the organisation as an expert in children’s rights.
1.3. Pre Trial Diversion Programme
JCT has noted the increase in the number of children committing serious crimes such as rape, robbery, theft and murder. There was need to ensure that these children are treated with dignity and in a manner consistent with their age by the criminal justice system. JCT therefore became a member of the Steering Committee for the Pre Trial Diversion Committee which is spearheading the Government’s pilot project in Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru. The organization has been attending meetings in Harare and Bulawayo on the project. These meetings have resulted in the referral of cases of children who have committed serious offences to the organization by court officials. The referrals have extended to areas outside the pilot project sites like Mt Darwin and Bindura. The project has also resulted in the reduction of the number of children in detention as police officers were sensitized to release children in the custody of their parents and guardians and magistrates urged to ensure that children appearing before them have legal representation and impose alternative sentences to imprisonment on convicted children.
1.4. Junior and Senior MPs Training and Interactive Meeting
JCT continues to foster child participation and ensure that law and policy makers take children’s views seriously. In September 2014, the organization organized a training and interactive meeting targeting junior and senior Members of Parliament (MP) in Harare. There were 35 participants who included seven senior MPs. The child MPs pointed out pertinent issues affecting children such as:
- lack of school furniture and infrastructure;
- child marriages;
- hosting of illegal parties termed ‘pasa pasa’ where children end up abusing drugs and engaging in sexual activities;
- rampant corruption affecting the education sector;
- administration of corporation punishment despite the fact that it has been outlawed by the Constitution;
- insufficient water and sanitation facilities and provision of recreational facilitates in expanding residential areas; and
- the unfriendly atmosphere at the Birth and Death Registry Offices.
Senior MPs highlighted their commitments to ensuring the protection of the rights of children and to move the motion on child marriages in Parliament. They urged the organization and child MPs to conduct researches on the issues raised and present to them with evidence they can use in moving motions in Parliament. The children were empowered to make duty bearers accountable for their responsibilities.
1.5. Commemoration of International Days
A JCT CFP, Mrs Besta Moyo, organized a march against child abuse in Budiriro, Harare to commemorate the Day of the African Child in June 2014. Budiriro was chosen because of reports of abuse of children by some apostolic sects there. These sects were preventing children from attending school and having birth certificates, among other forms of abuse such as child marriages. The theme for the 2014 commemoration was, “A Free child friendly, quality and compulsory education for all children.”The march was attended by 152 children, being 86 girls and 66 boys and 121 adults being 26 males and 95 females, making a total of 273 participants. The march was in response to the reports of violence against children in Harare. Some of the issues raised include the continued abuse of children in religious sects and lack of confidence in the police in sexual abuse cases. The police officers present reassured the public of their commitment to investigating cases of abuse and urged them to report any cases of delays by the police to their superiors.
JCT commemorated the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence in Harare and Mutare through various activities. It participated at the national launch of the campaign in Harare where Honourable Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Honourable Muchinguri bemoaned the lack of deterrent sentences by the Courts on perpetrators of sexual abuse and violence which leads to an increase in cases of sexual abuse and violence. At the same occasions, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs outlined proposals made for mandatory sentences of perpetrators of sexual abuse and violence. The organisation will work to hold duty bearers accountable as provided in the new Constitution on progress made to ensure children’s protection from all forms of abuse.
1.6. Media Campaigns
JCT used the print and electronic media to publicize its work and raise awareness on the laws and policies which protect children. Interviews on the radio were in English, Shona and Ndebele whilst newspaper articles were published in English. The organisation’s position was also often sought by the media on pertinent issues affecting children such as payment of school fees, corporal punishment, child labour by children in the streets and child sexual abuse. The media campaigns equipped community members with knowledge of child protection laws and services available. 149 clients assisted in 2014 indicated that they became aware of JCT through the media.
1.7. Networking with other Stakeholders
JCT believes in networking with other stakeholders to discuss child protection issues and find solutions to improve the situation of children in Zimbabwe. It continues to be a member of the Child Protection Coalition which it helped to establish years ago. In 2014, JCT continued to attend meetings with its stakeholdersto share experiences and challenges encountered by the different organisations in implementing activities and to identify other organisations it can work with in case management to ensure that children receive comprehensive services. The organisation’s participation in the meetings is important in that it ensures accountability and for other stakeholders to give and receive feedback on the work of the organisation and stakeholders. The meetings with stakeholders have resulted in awareness of the mandate of the organisation hence more referrals made by various stakeholders. JCT also uses these meeting to push for common objectives with other organisations such as on the need to align laws with the Constitution and reform laws. Discussions focussed on reforming marriage and inheritance laws in Zimbabwe.
These meetings have also revealed the need for empowerment of the child rights sector on the Constitution. The organisation should therefore continue with its work on children and the Constitution, after it successfully campaigned for inclusion of children’s rights in the Bill of Rights. This can be by empowerment and litigation as in the case where the organisation assisted Nomatter who was being denied a passport by the RG despite the Constitution making this her right. Such meetings have also focused on establishing and strengthening structures and institutions to support the Constitution such as the Transitional Justice Working Group and National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.