By Maxim Murungweni 9 to 15 September 2018 pg 16
As we continue to reflect on the theme of the Day of the African Child ” Leave no child behind for Africa’s development”, we need to go a step further and identify the other groups of children that have been left behind. These are child victims and survivors of sexual exploitation. Article 3 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on Non- Discrimination states that every child shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in this Charter irrespective of child’s race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion . Hence without leaving any child, all children must be given equal opportunities to reach their maximum potential. However, a closer look shows that our programming and development work in Zimbabwe has either intentionally or unintentionally left behind child victims and survivors of sexual exploitation because there has been little research on sexual exploitation of children in Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular. The magnitude of sexual exploitation of children in Zimbabwe can not be quantified as noted by a research conducted by the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) (2016), though recently the National Aids Council concluded the Size Estimates Study of Sex Workers which stated that there are approximately 160000 children involved in sexual exploitation. This indicates a huge problem in Zimbabwe that needs to be addressed now. Like what one scholar once said that “we worry more on what our children will be tomorrow forgetting that they are children now”. The problem of sexual exploitation of children has increasingly become a major global concern since it has increased the vulnerability and prevalence of HIV and AIDS. One way of tackling this problem of sexual exploitation of children is to give a voice to child survivors of sexual exploitation. The Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) Youth Position Paper gives good examples of how to work with children and youths. There is need to make sure that the voices and perspectives of children on sexual exploitation are heard, ensure that these children actively participate in programme designing and treat them as primary actors who shape, deliver, monitor and evaluate these programmes, in keeping with the principle of active child participation.