In June 2023, our member organisation in Zimbabwe – the Farm Orphans’ Support Trust (FOST) – achieved an incredible outcome for the children and families in their communities. Thanks to FOST’s advocacy work, and their collaboration with Family, the Zimbabwean government recently passed an important new law with wide-ranging positive impacts and improvements for children’s rights. FOST worked tirelessly with children and families to put their voices at the heart of its development. Here’s how they made it happen.
Several years in the making, Zimbabwe’s new Children’s Amendment Bill brings in sweeping positive changes for children and family rights in the country. It contains new legal protections against sexual abuse, extends support for children in care, promotes early intervention programmes that can help keep families together, and so much more.
Given the difference that this law could make to children’s lives, it was vital that children and families were able to effectively participate in its development. Our alliance member, FOST, knew this – and through their expertise, community reach, and understanding of the context, were able to make it happen.
“We have been working directly with the communities in Zimbabwe for over 25 years, so we had strong links to children and families already,” says Blessing Mutama, FOST’s Executive Director. “We were able to build on community dialogue sessions, caregiver support groups and child-friendly spaces to discuss the issues at hand, and to share input directly from the communities with the people who were developing the bill.” This meant that the children and families who had experience with the issues at hand were able to influence the laws that could affect them, and people like them – a key principle that we all share at Family for Every Child, and continue to fight for worldwide.
Working to advocate for children and influence policymakers can be complex. For FOST, it included meeting directly with government representatives, appearing in the media, and working with other like-minded civil society organisations and pressure groups. But the government was receptive to their messages. “We congratulate the Government of Zimbabwe for prioritising Zimbabwean children and responding to their needs and welfare,” says Blessing. “The process has taken a lot of time, but we are happy that the law has been passed.”
Research also played a key part in FOST’s ability to influence people in power. As part of Family for Every Child, FOST were able to investigate and deeply understand the topics of sexual violence and kinship care in Zimbabwe. Both of these research areas uncovered information and data that would help them state their case for changes in the law. The research into sexual violence affecting boys, for example, was able to shed light on a previously unexplored situation in the country – and in turn, the findings helped inform the development of new forms of protection for children and families. Zimbabwe is just one of the countries where we have been able to produce research like this, with members in other locations also being able to gather important data and using it to push for change in their own context.
The passing of this bill is a major step forward, and is just one result of the incredible support from Family’s generous giving community around the world. Without your donations, our alliance would not be able to support this kind of groundbreaking work – now, and on an ongoing basis. Children and families in Zimbabwe still need help, and FOST’s hard work continues. “It’s our hope that children in Zimbabwe can live in a safer environment in the future, with holistic care from their families and communities, and the chance to reach their full potential,” says Blessing. “By making sure their voices are heard, we can develop home-grown solutions that really work – and are sustainable in the long-term, too.”
Learn more about FOST at familyforeverychild.org/FOST.