Africa University through the Child Rights Research Centre (CRRC) under the School of Law and UNICEF Zimbabwe, jointly hosted the International Children’s Rights Day commemorations at Enopat Hotel in Mutare on the 16th of November 2023. Bringing together experts in the NGO, Government and civil society sectors , the event held under the theme Inclusion for all, highlighted the tremendous milestones made to date in Zimbabwe and the continent on child rights and protection, but did not shy away from outlining those areas that still require attention and more understanding so as to streamline and create legislation that works for every child. Among the topical issues were substance abuse, violence against and by children, teenage pregnancy, disability and mental health.
World Children’s Day is UNICEF’s annual day of action for children, by children, marking the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Opening the commemorations, Vice Chancellor Reverend Professor Peter Mageto took stock of the contributions of the university towards child rights and child protection discourse through the training and upskilling of passionate and dedicated individuals who develop research in often overlooked aspects of childhood development to inform policy.
He said, “Africa University is a premier institute of higher and tertiary education whose value proposition in the domain of child rights is to produce exceptional human capital that will serve in multi-fold capacities in the domain of child protection. Our graduate programmes in child rights and human rights attest to this thrust. Over the years we have produced graduates who are now championing children protection nationally, regionally and internationally.” He went on to applaud the continuous support of country partner UNICEF Zimbabwe that has fed into building this capacity through research and ongoing scholarship grants.
” Through our partnership, generations of child protection professionals have been capacitated and have gone to serve in various countries. Further to this, we have partnered with UNICEF to carry out evidence-based research which has contributed immeasurably to influencing policy developments in the country. On behalf of Africa University and indeed on my own behalf, l would like to express gratitude and celebrate our mutually-beneficial partnership. In that spirit, we join the international community to celebrate World Children’s Day. Children deserve the highest levels of protection, welfare and provision there is. Ours is to make their lives worth living, humane, dignified. “
In remarks delivered on behalf of UNICEF Zimbabwe Country Representative Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale, Mr Pepukai Chivore, Chief of Social Policy and Research emphasized the importance of keeping children at the forefront of the development agenda. “On this day, the world turns blue as we remember our collective commitment to protecting and upholding the rights of children. Zimbabwe ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and is a significant demonstration of the country’s commitment to the wellbeing of children. Today’s event builds upon the success we have recognized over the years and this day will emphasize and symbolizes our commitment to to leaving no child behind. “
Mr. Chivore also took the time to remark on the strides that Africa University and UNICEF are making together and went on to speak to future projects and initiatives in the pipeline, “I have great joy in sharing that as UNICEF, we conducted a scoping mission at Africa University focused on the monitoring and evaluation space which has opened a world of possibilities where we hope to work together to build essential skills in this area through training. We commit to this continued partnership and enhancing the great work we are already doing.”
Dean of the School of Law Dr. Nhenga, who is also the Director of the Child Rights Research Centre provided context into what drives her and her dynamic team of change makers. “The CRRC sits in the School of Law and was established with the support of UNICEF . Our purpose is the representation and documentation of children’s lived experience on the continent and to train practitioners on the critical needs of children. Since its establishment, it has harnessed the intellectual capacity of the university to become an independent broker of evidence for those who fight for the rights of children and vulnerable communities ,some of this evidence will be presented today. Together with UNICEF and other UN agencies, we chose to celebrate this day by providing a platform for dialogue to explore critical issues in child rights to ensure we leave no child behind in our development discourse with a focus on disability, health, inclusion and substance abuse.”
Some key panelists presenting critical research were PhD candidates from the Africa University Child Rights doctorate program which comes full circle for the university as the impact of these students and what they are already contributing towards the discussion on children’s rights showcased the value of investing and empowering future leaders.