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Zambia: Newsline

Campaign breaks the silence on child abuse in Zambia

ZAMBIA, 10 September 2008 - Camfed Zambia this year launched an ambitious child abuse prevention initiative, funded by Irish Aid. Camfed’s Zero Tolerance to Child Abuse Campaign breaks through the culture of silence surrounding child abuse, and calls on all sectors of Zambian society to put an end to it. Through this new initiative, Camfed is collaborating with the Ministry of Education to develop a National Child Protection Policy, as well as reaching out to educators, families, law enforcement officials, and politicians to establish safe and effective systems for reporting child abuse, and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

Barbara Chilangwa, Camfed Zambia’s Executive Director and former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, describes a status quo that is recognized internationally: “Too often, when children report abuse, people say, ‘They are children, we cannot believe them’.  We want to convey to the community that children must be heard when they speak up, and that there are structures in place for reporting abuse.” The objective of the campaign’s community outreach, says Mrs. Chilangwa, is to make communities aware that they have the power and the responsibility to take action against child abuse cases.

Camfed Zambia launched its Zero Tolerance Campaign in March 2008 through a series of workshops that focused on the importance of child protection, and educated community members about the repercussions of abuse. Representatives of Victim Support Units from police departments described the various forms of child abuse; child protection workers explained the role that families play in identifying and reporting abuse; and students performed dramas highlighting both the direct and indirect ways that abuse harms children. After the presentations, Camfed staff members led community members in discussions about what they had heard and seen, and listened to their solutions, many of which are being put into effect.

To rally national support for the campaign, Camfed has reached out to media and government officials. This included Camfed calling a meeting of 19 female Members of Parliament, attended by Deputy Speaker Mutale Nalumango. And in May, television presenter and Camfed Zambia Board member Doreen Mukanzo of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation hosted a talk show about child abuse, featuring five experts on the issue, including Mwangala Mukelabai, a Camfed Zambia staff member.

Recognizing the tremendous impact of the Zero Tolerance Campaign, Irish Aid has provided Camfed Zambia with further funding. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, Camfed will now roll out a National Child Protection School Policy, to be adopted through the entire school system, and will provide training to educational leaders. “We cannot be silent on the issue of child abuse,” says Mrs. Chilangwa. “To ensure that children are protected and valued, we must continue to engage the whole country in this discussion, and that’s what we plan to do.”


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