President Mugabe has called on society to uphold the interests and rights of children living with disability, saying efforts should be made to uplift their lives.
Speaking at the 20th Session of the Children’s Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare yesterday, he said the children were capable of making significant achievements.
He said the theme for this year’s Day of the African Child commemorations, bade all Zimbabweans to uphold the interests of children with disability.
The event, which coincided with the commemorations, ran under the theme, “The Rights of Children with Disability: the Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfil”. Some of the children often feel unwanted and disrespected owing to discrimination at home, said the President.
“Subjected to an environment like that, a child learns to expect no better from society for he or she expects nothing else but ill-treatment,” he said.
“They are made to accept that they are unable to do anything, which is far from being the truth. Indeed, disability is not inability.’’
Cde Mugabe said the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognised the human rights of all children, including those with disability. Zimbabwe ratified the convention in 1990. Article 23 states that State parties should recognise that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community. Article 13 of the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child also states: “Every child who is mentally or physically disabled shall have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with physical and moral needs and under conditions which ensure his dignity, promote his self-reliance and active participation in the community.”
President Mugabe said it was, therefore, the responsibility of society to help children with disability. He noted that although certain disabilities were natural, others were human-induced.
“If only through our actions and words we can give them an assurance that they are indeed worthy persons, such children can excel to heights unimaginable,’’ he said.
“Let us, therefore, not help perpetuate a feeling of self-doubt in these children because by doing so we would only be imposing real disability unto them.’’
He added that leaders and authorities in the developing world should protect their citizens and promote human posterity. He said Government efforts to uplift the lives of disabled children continue to suffer retrogression because of greedy care-givers who divert funds to personal use. He castigated bogus charitable organisations which sourced funds and donations for pilferage. Parents of the children, he added, should obtain birth certificates for them for easy access of funds. He also said registration of citizens enabled them to be accounted for in Government planning.
“Far less children with disabilities have either national identity documents or birth certificates. As a result, those without cannot be enrolled in our schools,’’ he said.
The President said Government was fully aware of the plight and dilemma that parents of disabled children were faced with.
While it remained Government priority to assist in meeting the extra costs that came with the special condition of such children, it could not go it alone.
“It, therefore, invites support from all sectors of our economy. I, thus, urge the corporate world to create state-of-the-art learning resource centres for our disabled children where they are exposed to information communication technologies through which they can interact with their peers, sharing enriching experiences,’’ he said.
Cde Mugabe challenged the incoming child parliamentarians to put the children they represent first. He said the Children’s Parliament of Zimbabwe does not only indicate
Government’s commitment to creating space for the active participation of young people in society, but also clearly demonstrates that Zimbabwe has open dialogue.
He said the youth should be allowed to air their views freely.
“The diligent young boys and girls who have been debating today realise that the offices they have assumed require the spirit of servitude by which they are expected to serve the interests of those they represent without discrimination, fear or favour. Leaders are there to serve and not to be served.”
The event was attended by Vice-President Nkomo, Prime Minister Mr Morgan Tsvangirai; Deputy Prime Ministers Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe; Cabinet ministers; legislators and diplomats, among other dignitaries.