To catalyze Zimbabwe’s efforts to implement violence against children prevention and response interventions, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Union (AU) supported the Government of Zimbabwe with a three-day training of trainers’ workshop. The training held in Mazowe from 22 to 24 May 2023, brought together participants from government departments involved in child protection. The departments included Civil Registry Registrar General, Prisons and Correctional Services, Judicial Service Commission, Ministries of Finance and Economic Development, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Health and Child Care, Public Service, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Labour and Social Welfare, Primary and Secondary Education. Representatives from the Office of the President and Cabinet and the Zimbabwe Republic Police participated. The training provided an opportunity to achieve consensus amongst national stakeholders on key areas of progress, gaps and priorities in scaling up evidence-based strategies to end violence against children. In addition, the workshop provided a platform to plan for scale up of key INSPIRE related approaches at national and district levels.
“This training will improve capacities and strengthen systems to promote child friendly Zimbabwe, free of violence while promoting coordination amongst Ministries and stakeholders. We appreciate the support we are getting from WHO office in Zimbabwe to push this,” said Honourable Anne Musiiwa, Vice Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The 2016 Violence Against Children survey (VACS) conducted in Zimbabwe showed that violence against children is widespread and affects both girls and boys, in homes, schools and the community. Boys have a higher prevalence of physical violence while girls show higher figures for sexual violence. In addition, 76% of boys and 87% of girls were said to experience emotional violence in their homes and about half of boys and girls experience physical violence at school. Sexual violence against children occurs everywhere even where they should be safest, in the home with 45% of boys and 62% girls experiencing sexual violence at home. Access to services remains a concern with only 14% of girls telling someone about experiencing sexual violence receiving services.
To respond to the alarming rates of violence against children in Zimbabwe and across the globe, WHO, UNICEF, amongst other partners developed the INSPIRE technical package. INSPIRE outlines 7 strategies which include I for implementation and enforcement of laws, N for norms and values, S for safe environments, P for parent and caregiver support, I for income and economic strengthening, R for response and support services, E for education and life skills. The three key principles of INSPIRE are prevention, multisectoral collaboration and evidence-based interventions.
Through presentations and interactive group work, the attendees were trained on the INSPIRE framework and tools and provided with examples of best practices on implementation of the various interventions in the world. Examples of interventions linked to norms change, parent and caregiver support, income generation, life skills and one stop centers were shared and illustrated the INSPIRE approach in the Zimbabwe context.
Violence Against Children (VAC) can take many forms such as physical, emotional, and sexual. It has devastating effects on children’s health and development which manifests during childhood and into adulthood, causing inter-generational harm to families and communities. Zimbabwe is one of the 37 countries in the world and one of 11 in the African region that has committed to ending all forms of violence against children through comprehensive and collaborative action.
Beyond the training, five key priorities were identified to urgently tackle to reduce Violence Against Children in Zimbabwe. These key priorities include strengthening existing monitoring and reporting systems (using administrative data), increasing the number of community networks involved in positive parenting initiatives and conducting a Global School Based Health Survey which is already in the pipeline for 2023. Scaling up school feeding programs, to ensure that children attend school and access services and reviewing the sentencing guidelines of the law on prohibiting sex with minors (below 16yrs) were also identified as priorities.
WHO commends the Government of Zimbabwe for everything being done to prevent and respond to violence against children in the country. In addition, WHO will continue to provide technical support to the multi sectoral resource team to achieve INSPIRE set objectives.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organzation (WHO) – Zimbabwe.