Children remain an important cog for the development of any country and their upkeep is vital for internal growth and global competitiveness. It is from this background that every progressive and futuristic polity invest and work tirelessly to empower and protect its children. One of the fundamental issues that have been overlooked in the recent years is the role of family in bringing about change and strong foundation of children. Despite the role that family can play in the empowerment and protection of both the boy child and the girlchild, a lot has happened particularly in the context of Zimbabwe leading to a very fragile and fragmented family system.
The current gender, and women empowerment wave has been popular from governments, civil society and development partners perspectives. In Zimbabwe, laws have been passed notably the 2015 anti-child marriages court ruling that outlawed the marriage of persons under the ages of 18. At a global lever, the SDGs currently respond to the gender equality, having realised how women and the girlchild for example, were neglected historically and today. It is however sad that despite such efforts, the Zimbabwean society and possibly others across the world are still entrenched in different cultures, norms and values that threatens the development and empowerment of children. It is thus critical to explore the untapped potential that families have in influencing the growth and development of an ethical society that respects and protect the rights of children and that of human dignity.
Family level dialogues and activities that safeguard the rights of both the boychild and the girlchild, giving them equal opportunities, providing platforms of complimentary efforts and roles within family at the same time preparing them to integrate into the broader world discourse is fundamental. The family is the institution where gender interactions are likely to be more intense, ranging from marriage and child-rearing decisions to consumption, time allocation to work and human capital investment among other things. These family structures in my view will remain as the main unit of analysis and review of the contribution of parents to the evolution of gender equality, the protection of both boys and girls and notably the socioeconomic outcomes which comes with such exposure.
Though structures and systems like schools and related education systems, churches, punitive and protective laws exist; families continue to have a huge role in building a sustainable future for children in deferent dimensions.
However, despite the role that the family can play, in Zimbabwe for example, the socio-economic decay and political turmoil continue to perpertually compromise the future of young people, exposing them to a mirage of risks and related deviant behaviours among those drug abuse, political violence, child prostitution and critical mental health problems. This has been exacerbated by lack of public policy initiatives and projects that reduce poverty and vulnerability and seek to protect society’s more vulnerable members against livelihood shocks and risks, mostly children and the elderly. It is clear from this background that one of the hindrance to strong family bonds and sustainable relationships in Zimbabwe has been the continued forced livelihoods and economic migration that dates to as early as the 2000s. To date, about almost 5 million Zimbabweans have migrated to other countries and this has meant that families had to separate and live separately, exposing children to broken families and fragile upbringing.
One will be tempted to assert that for any economy to thrive, there is always the need to invest in child-sensitive social protection services, providing children with proper health, education and equal opportuties between genders and giving family the primary role to protect and support children in the quest for a happy, prosperous and fulfilling lives.