Close gaps to ensure justice services for children
The Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH) has noted that there is need to plug the gaps that hinder justice services for children.
Speaking during the Day of the African Child commemorations virtually held on social media platform, Dennis Dzikiti a representative of ZACH said his organization has undertaken to join the child protection fraternity in Zimbabwe and Africa at large to commemorate the day of the African Child under the theme “Access to child-friendly justice system in Africa” while mentioning that there are gaps that needs to be closed to ensure justice services for children.
“It is not a coincidence that the theme resonates well with the work ZACH is doing with children in Zimbabwe but it is because as a child centered organization ZACH realized that there are some gaps that need to be plugged to ensure that justice services become more friendly for children as they navigate through the justice system. ZACH is supporting key government ministries and departments to scale up implementation of the various national and international laws and policies that seek to improve our national justice system and become more friendly to children,” said Dzikiti.
Dzikiti also brought out the challenges that hinder progress in terms of children accessing justice services.
“As we commemorate this day let us remind each other of some of the challenges that continue to hinder progress in this area. These are pragmatic challenges obtaining on the ground hindering access to justice services leaving perpetrators scot free. May you note that I will have a bias towards access to justice for survivors of child sexual violence since this is the area ZACH is working:
- “Poor reporting culture in our communities resulting in poor evidence in courts and health risks like HIV infections and unwanted pregnancies in children
- “Inadequate human and material resources. We need more resources to raise awareness about sexual violence against children as well as create demand for justice services for abused children. Children from poor families are failing to attend courts because of failure to raise bus fares. Some organizations have been giving some piece meal interventions but there is need for a more sustainable solution to this. The children social worker ratio is very poor. Social workers are a critical workforce in child protection and justice issues but the number of social workers formally employed in Zimbabwe is still very low compared to the caseload. We need to see more social workers in our police force and at the courts. Government and NGOs need to consider engaging more social workers. Lack of social workers has affected the timely production of probation officers’ reports to court and even the quality in some instances
- “3.Poor evidence being brought to court on sexual violence cases. Forensic evidence is the most incriminating evidence in court but we have a gap as a country. The Forensic Department reports that they last took DNA samples for profiling around 1996. We currently do not have a machine to use for this as a country.
- “Continuous rotations for VFU officers. The quality of police services is very critical if children are to access child friendly services. The officers are continuously rotated and we have instances where officers who have never been trained in victim friendly services handling child justice issues.
- “Lastly there is need to continuously improve coordination of the various stakeholders as outlined by the Protocol on the Multi-sectoral Management of Sexual violence and Abuse in Zimbabwe. An improved coordination will result in children and their caregivers coming to court with incriminating evidence, being fully prepared for court appearances and also receiving adequate pre and post trial support. The justice-welfare link is very important. Whilst the children are being supported to access justice services, service providers have to be kept cognizant of the other welfare services needed by the children,” outlined Dzikiti.
Meanwhile, Dzikiti said there is need to join forces and eradicate the scourge of the children’s plights. He said that if relevant authorities can put heads together and implement measures to promote justice for children, then they will have a safe and equitable environment.
“As we commemorate Day of the African child in 2020 let us remember that some work still need to be done to ensure that the African child accesses child friendly services in a child friendly system. We appreciate work that has been done to come up with laws, policies and instruments that guide child justice work and it is now time to focus on scaling up implementation. We call for upholding and respect of key principals in supporting children which are non discrimination, best interests of the child, child participation and survival and development. At ZACH we are supporting this work in 5 provinces namely Harare, Mash East, Mash Central, Mash West and Mart North,” he said.
Due to the covid-19 pandemic which has spread across the world claiming lives, the nation initiated a national lockdown to prevent its spread. This has forced many activities to be done virtually. DAC was this year commemorated virtually on a Social Media platform moderated by Social Work lecturer with the Midlands State University, Tugwell Chadyiwanembwa and his team.