-as the country’s laws on child labor are not adhered to, still more abuses are imminent
By Nevson Mpofu
On the eve of the International Day of Child Labor around the World, that is June 12, Human Rights organizations are relentlessly light glittered to address the plight of children down-trodden by this child slavery act now at higher prevalence rates.
Human Rights Watch recently launched a report on the escalating act of cruelty currently undermining children on tobacco farms in the country. Apart from this taking place on the farms in Zimbabwe, some forms of abuses are sprouting out of it.
CHILD LABOUR that is the ‘’slavery, ‘’ employment of children with or without any little they get after, continues to bedevil the country as the economy continues to get deeper into oblivion. The act of inhuman practice is increasing at alarming levels on the farms especially in region I and 2 where there is much tobacco farming activity.
These parts of the country are Mashonaland east, west and central where farms rely on tobacco growing. Although this tobacco is making the country earn more income-per capita, retaining foreign currents for economic growth, this is causing some vulnerable children especially from child-headed families and female headed underpowered families to drop out of school and try to fend for themselves to cushion hard times.
Human Rights based organization; HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH is seriously focusing on the rights and welfare of children on farms which have deteriorated heavily such that Human Rights are no longer tolerated as enshrined by the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights of 1948.
Also the Convention on the Rights of the child is heavily down trodden, this leading to depreciation of human rights in the country. Still to call a spade a spade, politics is eroding rights of these children. Most of them are taken advantage of during this time of the year. This is against the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 of the United Nations .
A Human Rights Researcher par-excellence, Margaret Wuth said the position of the country as far as human rights on tobacco farms are concerned is heavily compromised because massive human rights abuses are so rife on farms and even at house hold levels.
‘’Human Rights Watch is severely concerned with these kind of abuses whereby children below 15 are working on tobacco farms tirelessly and relentlessly to fend for their own lives at a time the crumbling of the economy is continuing to deepen at the expense of these children .
‘’They have no choice but to succumb to hard work which has left them more vulnerable to some other forms of abuse. Still , they are from vulnerability moving towards tough vulnerable life on the farms where they are exposed to tobacco nicotine , chemicals and pungent smell as they plant , weed , cultivate , harvest , grade and pack it for marketing .
‘’They do the donkey work but the day is sad for them because they get little out of the total work , earning farmers big cash by the end of the day .
Asked whether there were other forms of abuses on the farms, she stressed that, for certain, some forms were recorded by other organizations, but still they came across other forms, physical and economic in nature of which they recorded though their visit was to focus on child labor.
‘’Other forms of abuse , yes , we heard of sexual abuse of young girls below the age of 15 years , and this is so painful because some are getting married before they finish school .
‘’It is so terrible, what is happening is inhuman. The age of consent law is not working and secondly, the Child Marriage Law is still to be dealt with. Once children are left open vulnerable to other forms of abuse, child labor follows .There is need of reviewing policies and even repeal some laws which are not conducive to children’s tranquility.
In-fact, the Laws of the country must be adhered to , but however because of these hardships we are aware of , the country is in challenges , hence why children are exposed to hard labor .
I am calling civil society to engage some stakeholders to intervene in these issues , work out on policies and push the Government of Zimbabwe to end this practice quickly ,’’ she said .
Giving his sentiments, Dewa Mavhinga Human Rights Watch Director urged the Government to look seriously into these issues without delay so that such problems could be solved quickly. However he cited that this was taking long because the Government is getting direct foreign currents from tobacco growing activities making the income per-capita growth increase annually.
‘’Sometimes our efforts are strained as we push further on such cases. The Government is getting foreign currency from tobacco growing. Secondly they seem to take time responding to our call for ending child labor on the farms,
‘’We have a long way to go because we are not heard by anyone in the Government. They pretend to listen and take action, but still there is no action on the ground.
‘ ’This is not only taking place on the large to small scale farms, at house hold levels , this is also rife . Community leaders are those involved as well. Some of them complain of having no labor force because many young people are now based in most urban areas’’, said Dhewa.
A Human Rights Activist who works for a civil society in children’s rights Ruth Mamombe refused to be make open her organization. She however shaded light on the issue and commented that the Government , even if put pressure to solve this would take more time lying its back on top of papers and voices calling for the end of these human rights abuses .
‘’We can talk and talk and see nothing taking place. The challenge is big and we see it, look at it and do nothing to solve it through amicable solutions.
‘’The Government does not listen and take heed. They are just slow because they have no solutions.
We draft papers , take them forward , comes back to them after some time , they tell us , the responsible person has not taken decision and at most the Minister has been changed , thus when time is taken more at most taking some months to see the new minister .
‘’If lucky enough to see him, you are told they are still to work out on new strategies to contain this. The following response then takes more months without any success. There is much Bureaucracy in the whole set-up’’, she concluded.
However HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH is yet taking more qualitative research on ground to look more into issues pertaining sexual abuse, physical, economic, neglect and other forms which are still rife on the farms.