The Zambian government should step up social protection for children through the enhancement of services to safeguard the plight of the vulnerable people in the country.
Children in Need executive director Thereza Kabeka-Mwansa said it was clear that the country needed to step up protection of children with support for their parents who were among the poor in rural communities.
Ms Kabeka-Mwansa said the current programme of social protection targeted very poor communities without any provisions for those branded as ‘just being poor’ but who too needed some level of assistance to manage their basic needs.
“As a country, we are not doing enough to protect the poor, especially the children who need much more protection due to their vulnerability, and as parents we have a responsibility to provide safe and conditions for their protection,” Ms Kabeke-Mwansa said.
She explained that as a matter of moral responsibility, parents needed to eliminate harmful tendencies such as dangerous environments for their families who included young children unable to reason in terms of dangerous situations.
She charged that government needed to step up the social protection of children against unsafe surrounding such as the situation at Buseko Market in Lusaka were parents expose their children to inhuman living conditions.
“That market is a high risk area with dangerous materials around which make then vulnerable to cuts and burns. They are too young and might not know the ways of keeping safe but their parents have brought them from far to live and dwell at the premises,” she said.
She charged that a market was not a residential area and had limited the children’s right to play or to go to school.
She was speaking in relation to the commemorations of the International Day of the African Child under the theme ‘Eliminating harmful social and cultural practices affecting children: our collective responsibility’.
Ms Kabeka-Mwansa said as parents it was their responsibility to prove safe housing for their children instead of exposing them to dangerous surroundings as living at markets where there were no social facilities fit for human habitation.
And the Zambia Civic Education Association (ZCEA) executive director Judith Mulenga said in a statement that political, religious and community leaders should rise above their hesitations to protect children from harmful practices based on tradition and culture.
Ms Mulenga said the commemoration should go beyond march pasts and speeches to government and stakeholders concretely eliminate practices such as cosmetic mutilations, deliberate withholding of food and early marriages among the various schemes against children.
“Most harmful social, cultural, religious and superstitious practices on children are perpetrated by people close to the child, most often by parents or family members, and are socially accepted or actively encouraged by parents or by significant adults such as traditional or religious leaders within the child’s community,” she said.
She said there was need to increase awareness on the need to end impunity from adult failure to accept the child’s equal status as rights holders, by putting in place laws that protect them against these harmful practices.
“So, religious leaders should insist that no form of harmful practice against children should be justified in the name of religion. We all know that what happens to children in childhood determines whether they will become a cost or benefit to the nation,” Ms Mulenga said.
Ms Mulenga, who is also East and Southern African Representative on the International NGO Council on Violence against Children explained that most practices did not only harm them, but also disfigured, injured and in many cases killed the victims, and that there was urgent need for a collective responsibility to get to the drawing boards on the plans to bring meaningful change in children’s lives.