Compiled by Josphat Makaza: Environmental Community Monitor-Chiadzwa Community Development Trust.
Traditional leaders and environmental monitors who attended the workshop.
Agreeing with Terre des hommes and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association’s emphasis that justice is not only important to the current generations but to the next and future generations, traditional leaders have made a commitment that they will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the mining site and the mining community is a safe place for children and youth.
There is no way Zimbabwe can achieve sustainable mining without taking into consideration the plight, needs and aspirations of children living near mines.
At a workshop held at St Andrews in Marange the local leadership comprising village heads, headmen and councilors from Marange and Chimanimani said their structures and functions are glued and cemented on issues affecting adults in communities. The four days capacity building workshop was also attended by environmental monitors and representatives from community-based organisations.
The workshop was organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and Terre des hommes.
Representing headman Chiadzwa, Mirirai Chiadzwa said the recognition of Environmental Child Rights must start at the grassroots level and with all stakeholders involved.
“Look at our village assembly, the seven-member committee, we do not have children and youth in this structure”, This does not necessarily mean that the house is in order,” said Mr Chiadzwa.
He explained that the mining operations by both formal and informal miners has posed serious threats to the welfare of children. The invisible dust from mine blast and the mine dumps are not chocolates for our children but contributing factors to social ills befalling children living near mines.”
Chiadzwa said every local leader has a right to protect children from economic exploitation and from perfoming any work that is likely to be hazardous.
Mrs Beullar Mawoyo a village head in Chiadzwa ward said the children are silent victims and wholly welcomed the multi stakeholder approach by ZELA.
” Having them in our structures alone is not the solution, ” she said, but affording them a chance to freely express themselves at Dare whilst we are listening is what is needed.
Headman Mutsago said he is fascinated by situtional reports on the impacts of covid 19 on children produced by ZELA and community monitors in Marange during the covid 19 imposed lock down.
The reports had shown an increase in child pregnancies, child labour and child abuses faced by children living near mines.
The children must have access to justice including effective remedies for and reparation of human rights violations due to environmental harm.
Addressing participants ZELA Legal Officer Miss Josephine Chiname said traditional leaders should make use of the legal and constitutional provisions that promote and support Environmental Child Rights in spearheading the agenda.
“Section 282 sets out the functions of traditional leaders within their area of jurisdiction and as leaders your duty is to promote and uphold the cultural values of communities whilst promoting sound family values,” said Miss Chiname.
The Legal officer encouraged traditional leaders to make use of the Taditional Leaders Act Chapter 29:17. She explained that it is the duty of traditional leaders to ensure that the land and its natural resources are used and exploited in terms of the law, controlling overgrazing and generally preventing the degradation, abuse and misuse of natural resources.
“In other mining communities’ traditional leaders had achieved a milestone making use of the Environmental Management Act Chapter 20:27 through participation in Environmenal Impact Assesment processes and a continuous monitoring of mining company compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment document,’’ she said.
Rodrick Moyo ZELA Official emphasized on the need for dessermination of environmental information to youth and children and the need for the, to fully participate in EIA processes.
“The EIA is a legal requirement and child participation is a critical element that requires the participation of all stakeholders,” he said.
Moyo said the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), local media, traditional chiefs, local authorities, local communities, and community-based organisations all have a pivotal role to play. He encouraged traditional leaders to embrace the voices of children and ensure that they are not left behind.
He however said participation is not the end but a means to an end adding that it lays the foundation for children to be responsible citizens.