Working to ensure every child is protected in Zanzibar

08Jan 2021
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Working to ensure every child is protected in Zanzibar

​​​​​​​DESPITE strides by the government and stakeholders to eradicate violence, there are still a number of children in Tanzania who report experiencing violence and abuse with many of them failing to receive immediate support.

According to government statistics collected from the police, about 1,091 abuse and violence-related incidents were reported to various police stations in Unguja and Pemba in 2017/2018, compared to 2,449 incidents that were reported in 2016/2017.

In efforts aimed to ensure that children on the Island remain safe from any kind of abuse and thus fulfill their dreams, Save The Children is implementing a Child Protection System strengthening programme in Zanzibar reaching a number of families.

The project focuses on ensuring that communities are aware of all forms of child abuse, protection services are available, and that effective coordination and referral mechanisms ensure convictions of perpetrators. It has benefited thousands of children in the Isles by supporting them access their rights and justice.

One of the victims and beneficiaries of the project, Juma (not his real name) is a teenager aged 14 residing in Zanzibar. He was abused by a number of strangers some years ago thus affecting his dignity.

Speaking recently when officials from Save the Children visited some of the beneficiaries, Juma said he has passed through several rapes and defilement acts implemented to him by his playmates at the beach before getting help from authorities and child rights stakeholders on the island.

“I remember when I was at the age of six, my parents separated, my father went to live with our aunty where he took me and my older brother by force to go to live with him, which is when I started experiencing the bad side of my life,” he says.

Juma says his father fell into drunkenness, he started coming home late without even caring if they had eaten anything.

“He was always fighting with our aunty (his sister). I remember I had already started school, our father didn’t even care about buying us basic needs for school or even food, and when life became so hard my older brother decided to go back to our mother,” he adds.

He went on to say that, “he continued to tolerate such a difficult life but a few years later he dropped out of school and started to be a street child with no direction.

“I was forced to live that life because no one cared for me, I was spending much time along the ocean fishing to get something to eat, that is where my life was ruined completely, some strange young people started to abuse me.”

Juma says that he was sedated before being abused. “Due to a stressful life I was experiencing, I then decided to go back to my mom, who then worked to ensure that I get justice. The case is currently in the hands of legal organs and I hope all the perpetrators will be given strong punishment,” he says.

The young boy, who is currently living happily after being supported by stakeholders including Save the Children, would like to become a successful entrepreneur in Zanzibar.

“I thank God, I am now receiving psychological service at the One-Stop Centre ( Mkono Kwa Mkono Centre) at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, I have recovered, and I am sure that I will fulfill my dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur,” he adds.

Suhaila Abdulla Salim, a community social welfare officer at the Mnazi Mmoja One Stop Centre (Mkono Kwa Mkono Centre) acknowledged that cases of child abuse were on the rise in Zanzibar but with various initiatives carried out by the government and stakeholders, predicted that the challenge will be eradicated.

According to her, the centre has been there to support victims of violence including children who have been raped or defiled.

“This centre has all-important workers including, social workers, police without uniform, medical personnel, and counselors who provide health, legal and psychosocial services to survivors of violence 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Encouraged by the results and the government support, Save the Children has supported the establishment of 5 other Centers at the Chake Chake, Micheweni, and Wete hospitals in Pemba and Makunduchi and Kivunge hospitals in Unguja.

Suhaila further noted that the culture of silence in Zanzibar has been a major hindrance in the fight against child abuse.

She blamed some parents for not reporting to the police incidents of torture and physical assault.

Dickson Megera, child rights governance officer at Save the Children says, the fight against violence against women and children needs collective efforts from the government and stakeholders.

He acknowledged that children in the Isles are facing several challenges including violence.

Megera says that during the three-months of Covid-19 school closure (March to June, 2020), many children faced a lot of abuse acts including rape and defilement, which affected them psychologically and physically.

He says that in efforts aimed to ensure that the children remain safe in Zanzibar, Save the Children has been working closely with the government and other partners to promote child protection and child rights governance.

“Operating during the Covid-19 period is somehow difficult but we all work to ensure that children continue to live peacefully with their rights being respected, Save the Children strengthened efforts by educating the public, including children, on how to protect themselves from contracting the pandemic’s infections,” he says.

According to him, during the school closure period, a total of 451 children on the island were trained on Covid-19 preventive measures as well as reporting children's violent acts.

Globally, one in four children suffers physical abuse, nearly one in five girls is sexually abused at least once in her life, and every five minutes a child dies as a result of violence, according to UNICEF.