OVCS Victims of Gender Violence

CHILDREN in Zambia and many parts of the world have continued to fall victim of negative vices such as sexual abuse, child marriages, alcohol and substance abuse among others.

Many of the children affected by these are orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s), some of whom have been neglected, abandoned, by parents, guardians, families and communities and ending up on the streets.

Many of these are victims of gender-based violence, with others falling prey to ritual murders in which their body parts are sold with the belief of acquiring wealth.

These vices impact negatively on children by denying them proper and balanced childhood and exposing them to sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

Media reports on cases of violence against children is on the increase, with many adolescent girls falling pregnant and dropping out of school, hence denying them access to education and its benefits, while many boys are being sodomised.

According to Gender and Child Development Minister Inonge Wina, Zambia has a large child population with and estimated 1,300,000 OVC’s.

Speaking when she officiated at the launch of the OVC’s system strengthening projects in Zambia, she noted that it is this segment of the population that will shoulder the responsibilities of the nation in years to come hence the need for the country to invest in their survival, protection and development with particular emphasis on the provision of basic services to OVC’s.

Having realised this, United States (US) government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), expects to invest US$166 million to enhance the quality of OVC services in Zambia through the three rising activities, between 2010-2019.

Other activities include the Sustainability through Economic Strengthening, Prevention and Support for OVC’s, Youth and other vulnerable populations (STEPS OVC).

In partnership with the US government, the Zambian government recently launched three projects namely the Zambia Rising, Community Rising, and Data Rising activities, which are now being commonly referred to as the ‘Rising Projects’.

These three projects will support the Zambian government in improving the quality of OVC services, through strengthening systems and capacities especially from the national to community level.

The Zambia Rising project will work to strengthen social welfare systems, human resource capacity for OVC service delivery and engage private sector in supporting national OVC priorities and youth economic empowerment.

It will also support policy frameworks for improved coordination, planning, implementation, and monitoring as well as evaluation.

Data Rising on the other hand will support the government in the development of a robust national OVC management information system (MIS Database) that will provide accurate information about OVC.

Community Rising also has the responsibility of leading the district systems strengthening to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of OVC service providers at the district and community level.

Speaking on behalf of the three Rising projects, Chief of Party of the Zambia Rising project Cornelia van Zyl, the projects started in 2013 and are being implemented in five provinces namely Lusaka, Copperbelt, Central, Southern ad Luapula.

The total budget for the three projects is over $19,000,000, and the overall goal of these projects is to improve the quality of OVC services with strengthened systems and policy frameworks.

Ms Van Zyl said for the services and referrals to be provided effectively, the systems need to function effectively and coherently without fragmentation.

She said these unique projects bring together different stakeholders to support government in its mammoth task towards improved social services to OVC’s.

“The collaboration between the Rising projects, the government and the private sector and the community demonstrates the importance and critical need for addressing the OVC service provision challenges to the benefit of children,” she said.

And Gender Minister Inonge Wina said these projects are financially supported by the US government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

She noted that the Zambian government greatly appreciates the support that the American people are rendering and continue to render to Zambia.

She said these organisations will in turn collaborate with government to improve the quality of life for OVC’s through strengthened systems ad policy frameworks for coordination, planning and implementation.

“It is my hope and trust that these projects will assist to provide the best care possible to enable our children, especially the OVC’s to realise their full potential and contribute to national development,” she stressed.

Ms Wina was elated that these projects will be implemented through existing government structures such as her ministry, and the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, in order to strengthen systems for services targeting needy children for enhanced, effective OVC service delivery and harmonised national response.

She is of the view that under these projects, service provision by various government ministries, civil society organisations and the private sector will be harmonised resulting in effective financial and resource utilisation.

The minister reiterated government’s commitment to the protection and promotion of children’s rights in Zambia.

According to her, this commitment manifests itself through the review of the National Child Policy to take on board emerging issues in child development including the vices affecting children.

The launch of the Campaign Against Child Marriage is there to ensure that girl children, especially those from vulnerable communities are withdrawn from child marriages and sent back to school.

The government is also implementing programmes to alleviate poverty in communities and households such as the social cash transfer programme.

She commended all partner organisations for their continued efforts in the protection and promotion of children’s rights in the country.

Ms Wina implored them to consider expanding their catchment areas to cover rural communities in places such as Northern and Western provinces, which she said have been marginalised by many NGO’s.

“These provinces have continued to record low rates of service provision for children in areas such as health, food and nutrition, water and sanitation, education among other things,” the minister said.

“My ministry being the custodian of the National Child Policy will play a major role in the coordination and in the implementation of systems strengthening projects with support from all stakeholders,” she added.

The US government also hopes to ensure sustainability through economic strengthening, prevention and support for OVC, youth and other vulnerable populations.

And in appreciating the objective of the three Rising projects, a Loice Chibale a grade nine pupil at Bauleni School for children with special needs said the launch of these projects will ensure that data would now be available to ensure leaders and parents make decisions that will benefit the children.

In partnership with the Zambian government, the US is committed to help meet this challenge through support to the Zambia Rising, Community Rising and Data Rising activities.

Indeed, true to refrain from the song the children’s choir from Bauleni School sang, ‘together we can reach the highest mountains, together we can reach for the sky,’ these projects for system strengthening are bound to reach the highest mountains.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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