By Clayton Shereni

The Swedish government has injected close to US$6 million meant to promote child protection programs in the country through the Child Protection Fund, Centre News can reveal. Through its envoy to Zimbabwe, the Swedish government has released a total of US$5.8 million meant for the protection of children against abuse, violence, and exploitation. Addressing guests at a ceremony held at the Residence of the Swedish Ambassador in the capital on May 16, the Ambassador of Sweden to Zimbabwe, Asa Pehrson said her country was moved by the need to avert social injustices currently being experienced by children in Zimbabwe. “Sweden believes that efficient protection is essential to the children’s wellbeing because, as vulnerable people, they are more exposed to issues of mistreatment, exploitation, discrimination, and violence,” said Pehrson. The program that is being implemented through the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will deal with at-least five critical issues that include; access to justice for children, policy, legal and regulatory framework, and access to birth registration services. Speaking at the same event, UNICEF country representative, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale heaped praises on the Swedish government for partnering Zimbabwean government in the fight to protect children. “We are grateful to the government of Sweden for this new contribution that will enable the fulfillment and realization of children’s rights to protection in Zimbabwe. We hope that many other countries will soon follow Sweden’s example and join the Child Protection Fund,” said Dr Oyewale. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare, Simon Masanga reiterated that the government is committed to providing safe spaces for children and also thanked Sweden for the kind gesture.“The government of Zimbabwe is committed to addressing all forms of violence against children to ensure that every child grows in a safe, secure, and protective environment. Government expresses its gratitude to the people of Sweden for the continued financial support towards the protection of vulnerable persons in Zimbabwe over the years,” he said. This development comes as the country is still recovering from the socioeconomic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which also left many children vulnerable to abuse. Statistics have shown that 21% of girls aged 15-18 are already married, a move that has been propelled by their vulnerability to various social and economic injustices. Experts in the child protection sector believe that one-third of children aged 5-17 are working and at least one out of ten work in dangerous conditions. The funding will target; Mutasa, Bulawayo, Zvishavane, Mbire, Chiredzi, Epworth, Bulilima, Buhera, Beitbridge, and Binga in an effort to cover districts that are most vulnerable to climate shocks and are in deeply remote areas.