The United Methodist Church has become the second church after the Salvation Army to implement a Child Protection Policy in the country under the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, a representative board of the mainstream churches.
The policy seeks to protect children against all forms of abuse and exploitation. It also aims to protect adults from false allegations of inappropriate behavior or abuse and it conforms to the government policy on child rights.
Speaking during a one-day workshop in Harare in January, the Rev. Vienna Mutezo, deputy administrative assistant to the bishop, said the church should condemn any form of child abuse, be it physical or psychological.
“After realizing the gravity of child abuse and the potential of children under our jurisdiction being abused, the church condemns the rise in abuse of the young children nationwide. For this reason we are left with no choice but to join the world in formulating a Child Protection Policy and become voice to the voiceless,” she said.
According to the Zimbabwe Republic Police-Victim Friendly Unit, child abuse statistics show that more than 100 child abuse cases are reported daily, leading to the need for a concerted effort by parents and the churches.
Mutezo said that although the churches had joined hands with the government in ending child abuse, there is need for the victims and guardians “to report any form of abuse by these perpetrators without delay, if we are to achieve our goal in fighting this scourge.”
Childline Zimbabwe, a non-governmental organization that deals with child protection, claims that most cases of child abuse in the country were going unreported because of lack of awareness. Childline Zimbabwe employs a rights-based approach throughout all its activities. The overall aim is to listen to, comfort and protect all children. This indicates the strict adherence to any policy or legislation relating to children and a zero tolerance to all forms of child abuse or exploitation.
Upenyu Makoni-Matenga, Childline Zimbabwe’s communications advocacy and documentation officer, reported that in 2015, a total of 612,318 phone calls were received, leading to 12,068 cases. Of these, 53 percent were abuse cases and 47 percent were welfare cases. In every 100 cases reported, 34 percent are sexual abuse, 31 percent are neglect, 26 percent are physical abuse and 9 percent emotional abuse — an indication that awareness campaigns are slowly yielding positive results.
The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has a total church membership of 200,000. It has more than 50 primary and secondary schools, two colleges, one university, 12 clinics, three hospitals, two dental clinics and two orphanages where children are housed.
A trainer with Childline Zimbabwe said, “It remains difficult to deal with cases of abuse as victims and guardians are not reporting the cases on time for various reasons. Perpetrators continue to threaten their victims, hence the need for more players.”
* Chingwe is communications coordinator for the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.
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