Violence, abuse of children still on the rise in Zanzibar

15Jul 2019
The Guardian Reporter
ZANZIBAR
The Guardian
Violence, abuse of children still on the rise in Zanzibar

DESPITE a number of interventions by the government and stakeholders, Zanzibar is still facing high levels of children and women abuse including early marriages, abandonment, sexual and physical violence.

“The government takes various efforts including coming up with laws, policies and plans to protect children against all sorts of violence, but yet such cruel acts against them are on the rise in the Isles,” said the Director of SOS Children’s Village, Asha Salim in an interview with The Guardian.

She insisted on parents and guardians to properly take up their parental roles as per international conventions ratified by both the Union and Zanzibar governments.

Apart from protecting children against violence, parents are expected to provide them with necessary needs and ensure their basic rights to education, medical treatment and being heard.

“The government should ensure proper supervision and implementation of the laws and policies to enhance children protection,” the director noted.

Amanda Procters from Save the Children Zanzibar, said that violence against women and children was rampant worldwide, to which government is tasked with designing and implementing better strategies to end the problem in Zanzibar.

“We are collaborating with the government to promote the welfare of children in Zanzibar and make sure they get all their rights,” she stated, calling for increased education opportunities for girls.

Fatma Ahmad, Save the Children manager for children services, said the situation is worse in North Unguja region compared to other places across Zanzibar.

She said children in Zanzibar face a number of violence-prone situations including abandonment, rape and sexual abuse.

Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA) Project Manager in Zanzibar, Hawra Shamte suggested tougher punishments against the culprits.

“It is possible to have a Zanzibar that is free from any forms of violence. This can be reality if the government and stakeholders work closely together,” she declared.

A resident, Sabra Ali said that incidences of violence humiliate the victims. “Children are the nation’s future workforce so they must be raised in safer ways and provided with all their needs especially education,” she emphasized.

Another resident, Ali Haji said: “Legal measures should be taken against those involved in hiding the culprits. Girls are being raped and married by force but some parents protect the culprits only to be given monies.”

Haji was concerned that most of the cases are dropped at court over lack of evidence and witnesses.

Magistrates Naila Abdulbaswit of the Children’s Court in Vuga, Zanzibar said that witnesses’ failure to appear at court sessions have been affecting case rulings.

Abdulbaswit noted that failure of witnesses to appear at the court affects the proceedings and sometimes leads to hearing being cancelled.

Thureiya Hassan Mohammed, the chairman of the Children Council at Mahonda, insisted that children are entitled to all their rights as per the country’s laws.

Moudline Castico, the Minister of Empowerment, Elders, Women and Children, said the government is still working to ensure total protection of the children despite some challenges.

The government is implementing the national work plan on ending violence against women and children in accordance with the country’s development vision 2025.

Despite Zanzibar having the Children Act, 2011 which obtained the Future Policy Award in 2015, incidences of violence against them are on the rise.

The Future Policy Award was provided by the World Future Council, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Tanzania has recently marked the Day of the African Child, celebrated every June 16th since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

The day honors those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the kind of education provided to African children.

On June 16, 1976 in Soweto, a vast neighbourhood of Johannesburg, about ten thousand black school children marched in a column more than half a mile long, protesting the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in English and not Afrikaans, the Boer local language.

Hundreds of young students were shot, the most famous being Hector Pieterson, whose photo of being carried by young colleagues while he died in their arms was splashed in newspapers around the world, and has become the standard memory photo of the Soweto massacre.

Around 176 people were killed in the protests of the following two weeks, and around one thousand injured.

On June 16 every year, governments, NGOs, international organisations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realization of the rights of children Africa.