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Children’s Rights

ZET Blog: Community Outreach

This article outlines some of the personal stories of individuals reached and supported by Trinity Project through their community outreach channels, such as workshops in local communities, mobile office drop ins and legal advice clinics, and visiting homes and community centres. It shows some of the key barriers Trinity is facing surrounding registration, the value of their work supporting the most vulnerable, and the importance of localising this to individuals and communities. Last year, ZET made this possible by covering all transport costs, and we hope to do this and more in 2018.

The Story of… Tariro

Early birth registration is a misunderstood and neglected issue in Zimbabwe, despite being a human right recognised in national and international law. A birth certificate in most societies is a legal document that gives identity to a child and automatically bestows a number of rights such as the right to healthcare, education, property ownership, nationality and formal employment.

Birth registration is also essential for national planning. Birth registration helps authorities deliver essential services easily. According to UNICEF, neglect of civil registration has been identified as the most critical failure of development. It is clear that without vital statistics like number of births per year we cannot monitor progress towards our development. In Bulawayo for example a number of births have not been registered for various reasons. This can affect our development as we cannot allocate vital services and resources to people accurately.

Tariro is an unregistered 14-year-old orphan who lives with her maternal aunt, Portia. Portia is an unemployed widow and is HIV positive, so she struggles to put food on the table or care for her dependents. Tariro started school late due to a long period of sickness as a child, but found it extremely difficult when she joined school due to pressures at home and being bullied by other students. Eventually she was forced to drop out, and now supports her aunt by running small paid errands for other community members – perceiving no other options for her circumstance.

However, if she had been registered, Tariro would have been entitled to some sort of educational grant and welfare. This tragic case demonstrates the importance of obtaining a birth certification to improve and enrich your life.

The Story of… Constance

Zimbabwe is governed by patriarchal cultural values which direct behaviour and attitudes. For example, men are regarded as the head of households, and children expected to take their names. This means that in instances where the father is absent or not supportive of registration, mothers can often hold off from registering children in their own names out of fear of cultural stigma, and leave the children unregistered until the father returns or proffers use of his surname.

Officers have encountered countless cases with this issue being the cause of birth registration delay. One such case is Constance Sibanda, who has two children Michael (aged 8) and Nomazulu (aged 5). Constance believes that registering the children in her own surname is a taboo, and she will be disadvantaging them as the ancestors would turn their backs on them. She thinks that, it is best to try and persuade the father to come and register the children and that eventually she will be successful as they would realize their duty.

However, while she waits around, Michael, and Nomazulu remain aliens in their own country and as such cannot access the benefits of being citizens. If anything happens to Constance, the children will be left vulnerable and may not be able to access their inheritance. Many parents want their children to conform to cultural expectations ad rules, so that they may be protected and live good lives, but in this bid, they fail to protect them in the most basic of situations such as securing their future through proper documentation. Families often choose traditionally correct practices over legally correct practices, leaving their children vulnerable.

Trinity’s advice in this case is to secure your child and ensure that they receive what is rightfully theirs through legal registration. If the father later decides to be part of the child’s life, he can undergo the process of changing the surname, at a fee which he will be responsible to pay.

The Story of… Samantha

Samantha was a fifteen-year-old girl from rural Matabeleland. She was an orphan and lived in a very poor village where having three meals a day was a rare privilege. Everyone in the village wanted a way out of their poverty. Samantha was taken to the orphanage together with her other friends, which they all hated. They ran away from the orphanage and went to the city to search for jobs. They were employed in different places and so separated. Samantha worked as a maid for a widow, who ill-treated and overworked Samantha, whilst paying her with less and less food and wages.

She thought of leaving the job, deciding that being a street kid was better and living instead under a bridge with other street kids. She was the only girl in a group of older boys; here she was subjected to ongoing abuse and sexual assault and denied access to basic supplies including food, clothes, blankets and sanitary wear.

One day she was found under the bridge by a woman named Isabel, who took her in, clothed her and fed her. In time, Isabel adopted Samantha, funded her through the registration process, and enrolled her in education. Samantha excelled in school, and went on to study Law at university. As an adult, Samantha aims to pay forward this vital help, and has opened her own orphanage to care for vulnerable children and street kids, based off memories of her own experience. This is how she was discovered by Trinity Project, who often receive case referrals of local orphans.

All of these stories reveal the many opportunities made available to children only once they are registered and the many complexities in registering orphaned and vulnerable children. We are very grateful to Trinity Project staff for all their work in local communities out in the field, gathering these interesting and difficult stories and supporting people in vital need.

Written by Trinity Project Officers
Edited by Privilege Sibanda (Trinity Project) and Hannah O’Riordan (ZET)


ZET Blog: The Importance of Legal Registration

The following article outlines real life stories collect by Trinity Project field workers. Each case outlines the importance of legal registration and protections for vulnerable persons, and how complicated it can be to backdate registration.

Although these cases can seem quite upsetting, in every instance, Trinity has since supported beneficiaries; providing them with legal advice and support; advocating on their behalves; and directing them towards the help they need.
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Sizwile

Sizwile was the only girl in a large family. Her family lived happily in a small village, supported by the small local supermarket her father ran. Unfortunately, this all began to change when both her parents died, while Sizwile was only twelve years old.

Sizwile’s parents never wrote a will, codifying how to share their estate when they passed. Her family and community took advantage of this, and her eldest brother inherited everything. They left Sizwile without a penny, with those around her believing that as a young girl she had no say in such decisions, and expecting her to do nothing but marry and move away anyway. With this destiny decided for her and living in poverty, Sizwile was forced to drop out of school, and was married off to an older widower by the age of sixteen.

At first, she viewed her husband as her savior, rescuing her from a life of poverty and suffering. However as the years passed, he became increasingly abuse and controlling. Without access to contraception or sexual autonomy, Sizwile had five children by the age of twenty-two. In just ten years, her life had been transformed from an educated, happy child to an abused and impoverished wife and mother, dependent entirely on her husband.

There are many tragedies that left Sizwile in this position, not least the institutional sexism that silences girl-childen and leaves them vulnerable to this kind of abuse and exploitation. However it is clear that legal registration and protections, such as wills, can help young women in this position, and could have protected Sizwile from this fate.
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Mrs Makhathini

Mrs Makhathini is the guardian of two childen, Nokuthaba and Nqobile. These children have been abandoned by both parents and both sides of the family, who are embittered by disputes between them and have forgotten to prioritise the children.

The children were left to her as infants by their father, who migrated to South Africa to find work. The mother also went to South Africa, but has since cut ties with the father and her family, and her whereabouts are no longer known. Mrs Makhathini understood the importance of registering the two children in her care, so that they could access education, healthcare and a host of other rights and entitlements. However, the situation that the parents and the family have left behind has made this incredibly difficult.

You need both parent’s documents to register a child. The father has made his documents available, but without being able to contact the mother, Mrs Makhathini was dependent on extended family on the mother’s side to access these documents. The two children’s maternal relatives have been uncooperative, claiming that the father still owes them ‘lobola’ (dowry) and refusing to support his children’s registration until this is resolved. Legally, neither guardians nor paternal relatives are allowed to register children. So without the mother or support of maternal relatives, Mrs Makhathini is at an impasse and the children are left unprotected and unacknowledged by the state.

The bitterness between the parents and their extended relatives surrounding separation and lobola is all too common, but in this case it has led to a violation of the two children’s rights. Every child has the right, enshrined in law, to birth registration, and the many public services this provides access to. Nokuthaba and Nqobile are being denied this, by their own family members. This leaves them unrecognised as persons by the Zimbabwean government: unable to attend school, sit public exams or access healthcare, and more vulnerable to child marriage or child labour. We desperately need legal change, to make registration more accessible for complex cases like this, and an increased awareness in communities to understand the importance of children’s rights and registration, and always prioritise this.

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Lubhelile

Birth registration can become a cyclical issue. Lubelihle had a difficult upbringing, financially insecure and was never registered by her parents. As a result of this background, she was forced to drop out of school and married when she was just a teenager. Early in the marriage she gave birth to a son, but not long after her husband abandoned her. Since then, she has been forced to work low-paid, insecure jobs just to support her and her child. Lubehlile was never taught the importance of registration – and more than this, she has to work several jobs and still barely meets the costs of rent, food and other bills, let alone taking on the expense of a complicated registration case. Since she is unregistered, she could not give birth in a public clinic or hospital. There is no state record of her, her former husband, or her childbirth. As a result, it would be very difficult, drawn-out and costly to register her son.

Whilst it is understandable that Lubelihle has little time or money to prioritise registration, this is already starting to impact on her son. He was meant to begin nursery two years ago, and has not been allowed a place as he is unregistered. He has also been denied healthcare at the local clinic. There is a clear cycle of children being born into complicated, insecure backgrounds, without proper access to education, healthcare, or other legal protections – which in turn makes them far more likely to expose their children to the same fate. Some parents do not know the importance of registration; others do, but still cannot afford or access it. Either way, vulnerable families are far more likely to perpetuate non-registration.
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Gogo

Gogo is a grandmother, who approached the project for advice about registering her grandchildren. Gogo’s son migrated to South Africa with his wife, where they had two sons. Her son was then arrested and imprisoned, leaving his wife alone with her two children. She buckled under the pressure of working and raising two children alone, and one day broke down and left the younger son, a newborn baby, in a rubbish bin.

Fortunately, one of the neighbours discovered this, and arranged for both sons to be smuggled back to Zimbabwe to live with their grandmother, Gogo. After this point, the mother fled and Gogo has lost contact with her. Gogo was keen to register the two children in her care, fully aware of the importance of registering them so they could access healthcare and education. However, when she came to the registrar she realized the complexity of the case. Neither child had been registered in South Africa where they were actually born, then they were illegally smuggled back into Zimbabwe, and had been separated from both their parents with no way of accessing either parent’s legal documents.

Gogo had researched the registration process, and had her faith restored when she realized that the extended maternal relatives could assist her and get the two children registered. Unfortunately, these relatives were uncooperative. They believed Gogo and her son had caused them to lose touch with their own daughter, the mother of the children, and rejected the opportunity to support Gogo or the two boys. Since then, Trinity officers have visited these relatives as mediators, and explained the importance of registration. We are optimistic this will help progress the case. This case again demonstrates how complicated the registration process is, and how poorly it protects unconventional or vulnerable families. Even with Gogo fighting for her grandchildren to fulfil their rights, it is an uphill battle.
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As each of these cases show, registration is often overlooked at the best of times, and downright impossible when cases get more complex. There is much need for third parties, such as Trinity, to mediate between families, local registrars and other relevant institutions, and lawmakers, to smooth the registration process. The good news is that Trinity has grown to a national figure in the past 5 years, changing laws, raising awareness, and supporting thousands of individuals. Trinity is absolutely vital, helping disadvantaged and vulnerable young people to fulfil the rights they should have, just by virtue of being born.

Stories collected and reported by Trinity Project field officers
Written by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we take a look back at what your support has enabled us and our partners to achieve this year!

It’s been a busy year for ZET, providing vital support for three grassroots partner organisations in Zimbabwe and expanding the work we do back here in the UK. Thanks to you, we and our partners stepped up to the challenge…

Trinity Project

Trinity faced a challenging start to the year, beginning the first year since 2012 where they would receive no UK government project funding and being impacted by devastating floods across southern Zimbabwe. As ever, they rose to the challenge and launched a ZET-supported emergency appeal to provide food, shelter and supplies to flood victims. Beyond this, Trinity provided longer term recovery efforts including nutritional gardens and village loan schemes to help communities back on their feet.

Incredibly, Trinity Project also managed to carry on their usual work on birth registration. This year, responding the needs of the communities they work in and to support more vulnerable groups, Trinity expanded to work on access to a range of socioeconomic rights, including registration, education, healthcare and social services. This was very successful, reaching hundreds of families to provide services and support. Trinity is finally reaping the benefits of years of advocacy work, having been asked this year to draft a parliamentary motion on birth registration, meeting with multiple elected officials and community leaders, and having continued exposure in local media and academic articles. ZET’s support this year has funded transport and vehicle costs, which is essential in keeping the project successful and enabling staff to visit beneficiaries, local communities and stakeholders to provide their services.

Rafiki Girls Centre

Rafiki continued to provide transformative opportunities for young women in Harare, supporting 60 women this year to obtain education and training. Each graduate completed three months of life skills training, aimed at building up their confidence and self-sufficiency, with courses including sewing, computing, cookery and offering optional HIV testing and counselling. Trainees finish their time at Rafiki with a six-month vocational course run by an externally-accredited organisation, to build up their qualifications and employability and providing them with a connection to an employer when they graduate. Courses running in 2017 included hospitality, design, teaching and nursing, amongst others. This vocational training and link to an external organisation offers women the best chance to build a career, and 85% graduates went onto obtain work. Rafiki also works to holistically develop its students, offering them opportunities to relax and have fun, a vital part of growing up which they often do not have at home, through a range of recreational activities. These included movie nights, dinners and away trips to a national park, as well as extra-curricular learning opportunities such as HIV workshops and Careers Days.
Rafiki also has exciting news! Thanks to increased support from one of their other partners in the UK, Rafiki have been given partial funding to DOUBLE their capacity. This step is essential, as Rafiki currently receives three applications for every place it can offer, and this time last year the Centre had dozens of girls actually turn up on their doorstep, desperate to be considered for a traineeship. As demand for Rafiki Girls Centre and its vital services is so high, this step is important. However, we are not there yet, and Rafiki needs more support and funding from other donors, such as ZET, to be able to deliver this new expanded capacity. We will desperately need your support to make this a reality in 2018.


Foundations for Farming

The year was kickstarted for Foundations for Farming, who secured their largest ZET funding since our partnership began. This enabled them to run a project working with two local schools, building up the capacity of staff and students on conservation agriculture, so they would be better equipped to manage the land and produce more food and potential income for their school and community.

The projects were relatively successful, led by passionate staff at Foundations for Farming who went above and beyond to support the needs of the two beneficiary schools, and working with two very engaged and willing local schools. There was a lot of evidence that staff and students had adopted the principles taught by Foundations for Farming and were keen to implement these methods. However, both schools faced challenges beyond their control. The first school was forced to shut down due to lack of funds, however the teacher we had been working with was so committed to the project that she continued teaching these farming methods in her own back garden, with great success. The second school struggled with producing crops due to water shortages in their village. The school relied on students to bring in water from home to supplement the school and the plot, which was unsustainable. Foundations for Farming were impressed by their knowledge of and commitment to the project, so continued to support the school by providing them with tools, crops and farming methods more suited to dry arid land. Next year, Foundations for Farming desperately needs support to be able to reach more schools with this provenly effective project which helps staff and children gain skills and put food on the table, but also so that the project team have the capacity to provide additional support and resources when it is needed, as it has been this year.

Schools Outreach

This year, ZET has launched an exciting new initiative, working with local schools to deliver global learning sessions, where children and young people can learn about life in Zimbabwe, building up empathy and community links. We have been kindly supported by local organisations and universities, who have made this work possible and we look forward to expanding this work in the new year.

So far, ZET has worked with Westerton Primary School and Lee Briggs Infant and Nursery School, running interactive assemblies and workshops which aim to inform the children about Zimbabwe and challenge some of the misconceptions they may hold about other cultures and communities.

We have worked with children ranging in age from 5 to 9 running sessions, activities and games which teach about life, school, homes, jobs and culture in Zimbabwe, the history of the country and the UK’s relationship with them, and the work of ZET. We have been continuously impressed by how empathetic and engaged the children have been and it was lovely to see them engage with Zimbabwe in a positive, constructive way. The classes showed real interest by asking challenging questions, retaining detailed information and putting themselves in the shoes of children in Zimbabwe – even discussing complex issues like climate change, political shifts in Zimbabwe, and the birth registration process!

We will continue to work with these schools and more in the future, so watch this space.

Fundraising Events

Thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers, ZET has regularly held fundraising events throughout the year, all of which have been a resounding success and raised over £1000 for the Trust between them. This includes student-run pub quizzes at a range of local pubs – so we continue to thank Leeds students and their locals for having us! On top of this, the parishioners at Headingley St Columba ran an appeal this Lent and raised £1310 for ZET, so thank you all for your very generous support.

Most importantly, ZET turned 30 this year!!! And we celebrated in style with a big event in October, with music, poetry, Zimbabwean food, dancing and speakers all coming together to celebrate Zimbabwean culture, diaspora and the incredible work of ZET over the past 30 years! Thank you so much to all of you who attended or supported us – here’s to another 30 years.

If you have an idea for an event or fundraiser, or would like to raise money for ZET, please do get in touch!

Looking forward to 2018…

ZET has big plans for next year, starting the year with a visit to each of our partners in Zimbabwe to plan for working together in the future and develop our strategy and goals for the next few years. ZET hopes to capitalise on the momentum being felt across Zimbabwe, to transform the opportunity of a new period in the country into opportunities and support for our beneficiaries. We will continue to fundraise and support each of our partners, and hope you will join us in this mission.

Thank you so much for all your support this year. Together, we have transformed the lives and opportunities of hundreds of disadvantaged young people in Zimbabwe.

If you would like to give the gift of education this Christmas you can donate here: www.zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk/support-us

Written by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager

16
May

A Successful Year At Trinity Project!

One of the outstanding organisations in Zimbabwe that your donations allow us to support is Trinity Project. Through awareness raising, advocacy, and by providing free legal support to vulnerable families, the project helps children to obtain the birth certificates that they need to enrol in school.

 

Trinity Project: an update from the field…

 

As the curtain comes down in 2014, I would like to celebrate the successes we have had so far, together with the Trinity Project family. We also want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to our funding partners for making our activities possible.

Trinity Project is now a household name in communities in Bulawayo, and we continue to work closely with government departments. This year, the Ministry of Education granted us the authority to work with schools up to 2016, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bulawayo City Council, and we received permission from the Bulawayo City Council Health Department to program in local health centres/clinics. We also publish weekly newspaper articles in the local vernacular newspaper ‘Umthunywa’.

Unfortunately, widespread abuse of child rights remain, especially due to identity and inheritance; hence there is still much work to be done.

Mr Pumulani Mpofu

Project Manager, Trinity Project

 

Trinity Project: 2014 in numbers
  •  A total of 2,896 legal cases taken on.
  •  247 children so far assisted to successfully obtain identity documents.
  • Over 24,000 people reached through awareness raising activities.
  • Over 1,000 children have attended our monthly Kids Clubs, run in partnership with local Child Protection Committees to increase awareness of children’s rights.
  • 340 stakeholders trained to assist children with matters relating to birth registration and identity rights.
  • As a result of our successful advocacy work, both United Bulawayo Hospital and Mpilo Hospital are now issuing birth confirmation records without requiring vulnerable mothers to pay hospital fees upfront.
16
Apr

The Right to Education & Health

In this short radio broadcast, David Hofisi of ZLHR and Dr Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) help explain the provisions in Zimbabwe’s new constitution that guarantee the right to education and health and how ZLHR and ZADHR are working towards enforcing such rights.

16
Mar

Rafiki Update

Based in Harare, Rafiki provides vocational training to vulnerable young women. Since 2002 they have trained over 450 women, almost 80% of whom have gone on to find paid employment or set up their own business. A further 10% have used the training to access further education. We are very excited to have partnered with Rafiki, and will be supporting their work through a major fundraising campaign in the UK, which will commence in December.

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