23 March 2011: Global March is concerned at further reports of an increase in the incidence of child labour in Zimbabwe. According to a recent article in a national newspaper, the Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT), a civil society organisation operating in the country, claims that nearly 60 per cent of children living on communal and commercial farms in Zimbabwe are being exploited as cheap labour. The Executive Director of FACT points out that the significant increase in this exploitation stems from the collapse of traditional, economic and social service structures.
Ensuring that all children can benefit from free access to good quality public education remains a major problem in Zimbabwe and the current constitution does not protect education as a right. However, there is hope that this may change when the constitution is overhauled as planned in the near future. At the time of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, great progress was made to improve access to basic education which resulted in turn in a considerable reduction in the incidence of child labour. But this progress has been overturned as a result of the political, economic and social turmoil in the country over the last decade and as poverty spirals out of control, so child labour is rearing its ugly head once more.
The plight of young girls in Zimbabwe is a matter of particular concern as they drift into various forms of hazardous work, or, worse still, become victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Zimbabwe is a source, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation. Children from rural areas are trafficked into urban centres and, along the borders with the four countries surrounding Zimbabwe, women and children are reportedly trafficked for sexual exploitation.
In 2007, in partnership with Global March, the ILO, Save the Children UK, the British Embassy, Terre des Homes and other child rights’ organisations, the New Hope Foundation conducted the first national march from Harare to Plum Tree to raise awareness of the problem of child labour in Zimbabwe. In 2011, New Hope Foundation is planning to once again to take to the streets and organise a second march on child labour to support its advocacy efforts calling for major policy development and reform on child labour and trafficking.
Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi expressed his concern over the growing problem of child labour and trafficking in Zimbabwe. “It is vital that the government of Zimbabwe acknowledges the problem of child labour in the country and strengthens its political resolve to tackle this issue as a matter of urgency and promote free access to good quality and meaningful education for all children. We hope that this fundamental right will be enshrined in the revised constitution. We also acknowledge the courage and strength of our member, New Hope Foundation, which continues its struggle against child labour in the face of such adversity and is an inspiration to us all. We wish them every success in their endeavours and call on the government of Zimbabwe to pay close heed to their demands for the future of their children and their country.”