By Shelphanos Dzomira
On June 16 1976, a group of South African students stood up for their rights and marched peacefully against the apartheid regime and led an uprising that quickly spread throughout the whole country.
That wintry June morning of 1976 changed the course of South Africa’s democracy and the country’s respect for children. The uprising showed that children can organize themselves without the support or direction of adults. Faced the monster in the eye, and stood firm against oppression.
Today, almost 50 years later, we join the African continent and the world at large in commemorating the Day of the African Child-June 16. Remembering the selfless attitude shown by these brave students.
Children have the capacity to lead, only if they are allowed the opportunity to.
The spirit of these 3000-10000 students motivates us to continue fighting for child protection and child empowerment policies.
Almost half a decade later, we have more than 1,3 million orphans in Zimbabwe and over half a million households that are headed by children. This shows that a lot needs to be done to have the dream of the June 16 child protesters realised.
Zimbabwe has child protection policies in place and has ratified conventions and agreements for the protection of children.
Orphaned and vulnerable children need more than policy commitments. They require real-time interventions that empower and emancipate them. One sure way of achieving this is the capacitation of children with entrepreneurship, vocational and technical skills training. The private sector and civil society can complement government’s efforts in improving the welfare of children in the country.
Engaging children in entrepreneurship promotes inclusivity in human capital development, through interventions in identified areas of need eventually brings our communities back into an inclusive workforce.
Orphaned and vulnerable children lack employment opportunities, have no capital to start business ventures and also lack the necessary technical and business development skills.
This worsens their marginalization and discrimination. Leading to them living in abject poverty. Not only does this affect their incomes and livelihoods, but also affects their mental health, motivation and general wellbeing.
These social problems have serious negative effects on OVCs, which is why the provision of entrepreneurship, vocational and technical skills training is essential in empowering them.
More so, the not-so-friendly macro-economic variables in the country, have driven a lot of children into depression, drug abuse and early marriages. As such, OVCs require entrepreneurship, business development and technical skills training and start-up financial support.
Children, particularly those weaned off from children’s homes, are usually left out in national skills development and enterprise support initiatives. Nonetheless, such support is needed, for this important demographic to yield productive outcomes and help them reach their optimum potential in life.
As we commemorate the Day of The African Child, we spare a thought for the orphaned and vulnerable children all over the world, and as civil society, we commit to providing inclusive skills training and post-training support to OVCs in Zimbabwe. We will continue to engage communities for the betterment of vulnerable children in the country’s development.
Shephanos Dzomira is the Director of Fountain of Hope Zimbabwe-a non-profit organisation based in Kwekwe Zimbabwe, that facilitates the empowerment of OVCs with technical and life skills to lead productive lives. He writes in his personal capacity. He is contactable at [email protected], phone + 26377 5396430