Day of the African Child 2018: Stories from Zimbabwe #2

From a life of misery to a life of hope…

A 7-year-old girl was admitted to hospital in a village in Mashonaland Central after sustaining serious injuries on her head, lips and hands. Finding these injuries to be suspicious, the attending doctor referred the case to Childline Zimbabwe.

After the child disclosed that her mother would frequently beat her, the doctor wrote an affidavit and sent it to the police. The child’s parents had never lived together, and both had since married other spouses and started families with them. The 7-year-old was staying with her mother, her mother’s husband, and three half-siblings.

A Childline Zimbabwe social worker met the girl’s teacher, who told them that the child had a habit of coming to school late, looking clumsy and often without bringing any food to eat. The teacher noticed that the girl refused to remove her hat in class. After finally doing so, the teacher saw a deep cut on her forehead, but when asked how it had happened the child broke down into tears. The girl revealed how she was always receiving beatings, especially regarding household chores. Before leaving for school, she would have to first wash the dishes, fetch water from a borehole that was some distance from the homestead, and prepare breakfast.

The case was referred to the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) for joint management with Childline Zimbabwe. While the child was receiving medical treatment and counselling from Childline, her father and her teacher were interviewed by social workers in the hope of establishing where she could be taken as an alternative, as her current home environment was clearly not a conducive one. The father was encouraged to try to keep the child in a family set-up with her relatives. His wife was uncomfortable with the idea of having the girl stay with them, however, so his next option was his parents who resided in a distant village. The father was given the task of communicating with his parents to find out if the child could live with them.

The grandparents agreed to the proposal, and arrangements were made travel to their homestead. A visit was conducted by an officer from the DSW, a Childline social worker, the father and the child herself. A case conference was conducted with the grandparents, and an uncle and his wife. The social workers found the home to be satisfactory, and their assessment included source of livelihood, proximity of the nearest school and the household living arrangements. The father was encouraged not to forget about his daughter, and to try by all means to provide for her.

Today, she is still with her grandparents. She goes to school with her cousins, and she is enjoying the comfort of being surrounded by people who love and care for her.

 

(With thanks to Carol Zingani and Daphne Jena)