By Lindsay Chiswe
This years Child Rights Ambassador Training for Junior Councillors was held at Shamwari Yemwanasikana in Chitungwiza.
Junior Councillors from more than nine schools in Chitungwiza on Saturday pointed out lack of support from the schools and the community at large as the major root cause fuelling violation of children’s rights in society.
Shamwari Yemwanasikana, Education and Training Officer Natasha Ruya, said the training targeted mainly Junior Councillors since they are the ambassadors in child rights participation.
“We chose to work with Junior Councillors because they are the epitome of child participation in the community. We need to fully capacitate these Councillors on their rights and responsibility so that when they impart the knowledge to other children in the community, whose voice cannot be heard, they will have accurate information to disseminate” she said.
The Junior Councillors were put in three groups and were given the opportunity to share some of the problems they are facing as children in advocating for their rights and also how their rights are being violated.
Some of the issues raised during the training include, lack of support from school heads for them to do awareness campaigns on child rights, right to play being violated due to shortage of recreational facilities like play grounds, which have been turned into residential areas, and car parks, students being denied the right to Religion, unfair distribution of government scholarship, lack of strong links between Chitungwiza Senior Council and the Junior Council, inappropriate dressing by female teachers at school and also male teacher drinking and smoking in front of students, right for privacy being violated by parents and guardians.
Mercy Muvulawa one of the Junior Councillors said that, some children are not going to school because of early child marriages, some drop out of school drop due to financial challenges and traditional beliefs that the girl child should not be given the chance to go to school.
“It is very sad to see children of my age not going to school, because some are being married off against their will, and some are dropping out of school because of the new curriculum which they are finding hard to grasp, and also it was implemented without consultation of us students. It is our right to be heard as stated in the United Nation Convention Article 3 which state that those who make decisions affecting children must put the interest of children first and also Article 12-15 which state that all children have the right to say what they think”
“Shamwari Yemwanasikana did a very good program today, because with this certificate I am holding, I have been empowered and I am going to be an ambassador to other children whose voices are being ignored,” she said.
Ruya also said that as an organisation, they targeted junior councillor so that they can identify the capacity gaps they have as a council and also to boost their confidence.
“We want these Junior Councillors to be confident, they should not be taken as jokes or extras in a movie when it comes to children rights but they should take the centre role. They understand issues affecting children in the community because it is their everyday life, and they are also role models to other children. This way, they can be able to start child rights clubs at their schools.
The training also marked the first day of 16 days of activism against gender based violence against women and Shamwari Yemwanasikana has put man on board to help spread the word against gender based violence.
“We have realised that without men on board, our fight against gender based violence will be in vein, hence they are coming in not as perpetrators of violence but champions when it comes to protecting us women and girls”, said Ruya