ZIMBABWE: Graça Machel Says Women, Children Need Focus in New Zimbabwe Constitution

Friday, November 19, 2010
VOA News
Southern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

UNICEF Children's Advocate Graça Machel says it is important for Zimbabwe to put children's and women's rights onto the agenda of the country's constitution making process.

Graça Machel said she visited Zimbabwe this week to learn how it was dealing with developmental challenges, particularly in relation to women and children, since the formation of the unity government last year.

"Specifically on child rights and women's rights which will become guiding principles of the kind of society we want to build, of the kind of relationship, particularly among citizens we want to achieve, and how rights of people are exercised," she said.

Graca Machel, wife to former South African president Nelson Mandela, centre right, hugs Charelen Vhuta, during her visit to Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 Nov 2010 Machel, the wife of former South African president, Nelson Mandela, was in Zimbabwe in her capacity as UNICEF Children's Advocate. While she welcomed Zimbabwe's progress the past year in upholding children's rights, she said it is unforgiveable that 100 children die each day in the country, many of them as a consequence of HIV/AIDS.

She added that there is knowledge, medication and capacity to reduce the number of children infected with HIV and to treat those with AIDS. She said there is no reason why children in Zimbabwe and other countries in the region should continue to die because they have no access to treatment.

Machel noted that Zimbabwe is currently engaged in a constitution making process and said those involved need to focus on including the rights of women and children. "For us, we felt this was an opportunity to bring women's rights and child rights of the center stage of this constitutional making process,"

While in Zimbabwe, she met with children from several different organizations, and said the experience was emotional. She lamented that children had paid the highest price for Zimbabwe's political and economic decline in the past decade.