In 2016, Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) commissioned a research on young women in commercial sexual exploitation along two transport corridors in Zimbabwe. The research looked at causes, initiation prevalence and use of HIV and social services.
It sought to establish the drivers, initiation prevalence and extent to which children engaged in sexual exploitation are accessing and utilising HIV and social services. The research was supported by Progressio with funding from Comic Relief under the Amplifying the voices of people affected by HIV in Zimbabwe project – with a particular focus on advocating for children’s rights. A total of 292 participants were interviewed.
The magnitude of the problem of Sexual Exploitation of Children in Zimbabwe cannot easily be quantified due to lack of adequate data and surveillance mechanisms
- 18 percent of the respondents were below the age of 18 years
- 81,2 percent of the respondents dropped out of school because of lack of school fees
- Push factors included: familial poverty (87,7 percent), breakdown of family unit (23,5 percent), Gender Based Violence (7,2 percent) and orphanhood (23,8 percent while others reported inherited sex work (ie following their mothers into the trade).
- Pull factors included: peer pressure/introduced by friends and financial need.
- The majority (99 percent) of the young women selling sex in Zimbabwe reported that they were paid cash for providing their services.
- 91,7 percent of the respondents demonstrated a high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS demonstrating awareness of their risk for infection and that correct and consistent condom use prevents transmission.
- More than two thirds (64,6 percent) of young women reported starting selling sex below the age of 18 years.
- 84,6 percent reported that accessibility and availability of HIV services was easy.
Recommendations on Key Advocacy Issues
- Develop standardised context specific guidelines and model on the re-integration of Young women selling sex into their families and communities in Zimbabwe.
- Develop alternative means of livelihoods for child victims and their families to prevent further commercial sexual exploitation
- Initiate interventions that reduce the susceptibility to HIV for girls newly entering sex work:
- Develop an early identification response system and recruit and deploy a well-trained cadre of youth peer educators
- Increased access to basic education and keeping girls in schools is needed:
- Strengthen public and targeted information campaigns to target the demand side, the sex exploiters.
- More operational research and information gathering and evidence generation is required on sexual exploitation of children in Zimbabwe.
ZNCWC in collaboration with other partners has planned to carry out the following activities so as to step up the campaign on ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children in all sectors.
- Development of policy papers on commercial sexual exploitation of children for engagement with policy makers
- Training/capacity building of journalists on advocacy issues on commercial sexual exploitation of children
- Sponsoring an award on the Best Media Reporter on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of children at the Zimbabwe Union of Journalist/NJAMA Journalism Awards 2017.
- Publication of press statements and articles on advocacy issues on commercial sexual exploitation of children
- Building strategic partnerships with more development partners, stakeholders
- Holding an All Africa meeting on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism
- Training of NECTOI Site agents on children’s rights
- Referral and signposting of children involved in commercial sexual exploitation to support services.
- Publication and wide distribution of the research findings on commercial sexual exploitation of children.
- Engagement meetings and advocacy lobbing with policy makers (MPs, Government ministries) on advocacy issues on commercial sexual exploitation
- Development of key child friendly advocacy and IEC material on commercial sexual exploitation of children
- Supporting the Junior Councillors and Junior Parliamentarians child rights advocacy and child participation activities and engagement with Senior Parliamentarians on commercial sexual exploitation of children.
- Engagement of debates amongst Junior Parliamentarians on commercial sexual exploitation of children