It’s the elephant in the room of parenting topics: child sexual abuse or exploitation. And it’s no surprise parents have difficulty addressing it — especially with their children — because the statistics are so horrifying and sobering, you don’t want to believe them.
The issue took the centre stage at a Churches Convergence on Conflict & Peace (CCoCP) District Stakeholders engagement meeting held at AFM Kairos Assembly in Kuwadzana Extension Harare last Friday as the world bid farewell to the 16 Days of Activism campaign.
Giving an expert description of the dynamics of the matter with a bias to the youth’s perspectives, Rufaro Kashambamuropa from the Agents of Change appealed to parents to guide and stand for/with their children, especially girls as child sexual exploitation has become rampant in Kuwadzana and Dzivarasekwa.
“Parents, we still need your guidance. Growing up, you chastised us when we were out of line. Nowadays, because we are grownups and because of our rights, you can’t treat us the same way. Nevertheless, don’t give up on us,’ she said.
“We are being raped by our so-called boyfriends. Sometimes we think that we are having fun, but those are things that are destroying us. The number of unwanted pregnancies is high. There is an old adage that says the one who doesn’t know doesn’t know that they do not know. That is the same issue with today’s youth. We do not know how to navigate and worse, we are surrounded by negative peer pressure,” said Rufaro.
At a similar workshop held at the same place last month, Child Care Welfare practitioners raised an alarm on the pervasiveness of sexual violence in Kuwadzana. It was their submission that the unbridlness owed to the fact that there were many brothels, Shebeens and the high-density dwellings in the area. They said they were now “abnormalities” in the community as spaces once presumed safe for children, like home, schools and churches, were being turned into hubs of sexual exploitation and drug abuse.
Tasked to investigate and report on the popular trend of ubiquitous wild house parties that have seen the exploitation of many young girls in the suburb, Agents of Change confirmed that such insidious jamborees were indeed taking place.
“There are viral house parties happening here in Kuwadzana. In Bulawayo, they call them Vuzu parties. Rich people sponsor these parties, and young people are invited. Little do we know that as soon as we finish drinking and eating, there are predatory men waiting to exploit our sexual rights. Children are being given a drug called papaya. They add it to the drinks we take and after we drink them, anyone can do anything to us without even knowing. We will only feel the after-effects of the pain when we sober up.”
The agent added that while they expect parents to keep them safe, it was sad to note that sometimes they were complicit.
“I interviewed a 15 years old girl who stays with her single mother who is into sex work. The mother could entice different men into the house and one day one of the boyfriends, instead of bedding the mother, raped the young girl. Sometimes, we are silenced and muffled when we accuse a family member of sexually assaulting us. These are the things that are happening to us,” she said.
Rufaro said they wanted parents to protect them. Not as young girls only but boys as well, as they were being subjected to similar forms of exploitation and sexual abuse.
“We want our parents to stand for us, with us. It’s not only happening to girls but boys as well. There is a case of 21 years boy who is staying with a 40 years old woman, and the neighbours are silent about it.”
On brothels, Rufaro said almost 30% of the houses in Kuwadzana Extension are being turned into brothels.
She appealed to Councillor Adonia Shoko of Ward 44, Kuwadzana Extension to initiate and lead awareness campaigns against child sexual exploitation and engage the necessary authorities to weed out the rampant of child sexual exploitation.
Lois Dube from Child Care Welfare also inferred with Agents of Change, even added that case of child sexual exploitation soared during COVID-19 lockdowns as children were confined at home.
During the same time, Dube said, is where several brothels were established, shebeens were opened and most car parks were turned into drug hubs as most residents were not going to work.
Seasoned actor, Norbert “Nyere” Mutasa, who was was also present at the work and he, tipped the wink on the issues bedevilling Zimbabwe in general and Kuwadzana, in particular, through dramatisation and poetry performances.
In one piece that tackled the problems of service delivery, the informal sector’s predicament and child sexual exploitation entitled Vacho, the popular Tiriparwendo actor said:
“Vacho vamunoti vakubvisirei marara, vacho vamunobhadhara kuti vakubvisirei marara mumisha menyu ndivo vacho varikuuya nemarara pamusiwo yenyu
Vacho vanokupai pokugara vokupai mvura nemwenje ndivovacho vanozoti papera makore maviri matatu vouya vachikupwanyirai dzimba dzacho
Vacho vatinoti vatichengeterai vana ndivo vacho varikubata chibharo vana vacho.
Vacho vatinoti vatinamatire nemhuri dzedu ndivo vacho varikurara nevakadzi vedu vacho. (Those you pay and expect to clean up your waste are the very people who are dragging the dirty to your doorsteps. Those who allocate you residential stands, give you power, and water are the awful people who come to demolish the houses two or three years down the line. Those we entrust with looking after our children are the same people who are raping them. Those we ask to pray for our families and us are the same people who are bedding our wives.)”
The Kuwadzana/Dzivarasekwa District Stakeholders Engagement Meeting was convened by the Churches Convergence on Conflict & Peace’s Coordinated Response Platform to hear out the residents’ perspectives to the challenges hampering local government, have expert descriptions of the dynamics of the problems and find possible intervention methods to resolve the identified crises.
Apart from Agents of Change and Child Care Welfare, there were also other presentations from the residents, Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) and Prisoners Entrepreneurial Development Zimbabwe (PEDZ).
Established in 2018, Churches Convergence on Conflict and Peace is a consortium of church-related organizations self-tasked to foster peace at grass-root level in Zimbabwe. The initiative is made up of Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD), Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJP) and Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF).
The ecclesiastical initiative also works hand-in-glove with National Peace & Reconciliation Commission and Zimrights.
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