Men join fight against child abuse as community childcare workers Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy Minister Mercy Dinha hands over a bicycle to Bhekinkosi Ndlovu

Nqobile Tshili, [email protected] 

CHILDCARE is often seen as a woman’s domain, where maternal instincts and compassion are essential. 

But in some communities, men are breaking the stereotypes and stepping up as community childcare workers, who protect and support vulnerable children from various forms of abuse.

These workers are part of the Department of Social Development under the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. 

They deal with sensitive issues such as gender-based violence and sexual abuse of children, among other challenges facing their communities.

One of them is Bhekinkosi Ndlovu, a lead community childcare worker from Bulilima District in Matabeleland South. 

He has been in this role for over 10 years, after being nominated in 2013. He said he had little knowledge about the job at first, but he has no regrets taking it on.

Ndlovu said he believes that men should be involved in the protection of children, especially girls and women, who are often the victims of violence perpetrated by men.

“We encourage men to be involved as we are the ones who perpetrate some of the abuses on the girls and women. So we have to be involved in the protection of children. That is why I took up this job role as a childcare worker,” he said.

Ndlovu said the job requires patience and love, as some of the cases are highly sensitive. 

He also said he has to travel long distances to reach other villages where there are cases. 

He was among the 207 community childcare workers who received bicycles from Save the Children, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP).

 He said the bicycles would make his work easier and more efficient.

“It is not easy to deal with children because sometimes you have to play an intermediate role between children and their parents. Sometimes I have to travel 16km to reach another village in case there is a case so the bicycles would easily lessen the burden of travelling long distances. 

“Due to long distances, it is sometimes discouraging to walk long distances just to attend to cases meaning, we would not fully execute our duties leaving the children vulnerable. So we are grateful for these bicycles, they will come really handy,” said Mr Ndlovu.

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Another community childcare worker, Golden Malibongwa Dube, from Ndiweni village, said he was motivated to take the role because he had experienced difficulties as a child.

 He said he wants to make a difference by being a role model and a protector for the children, especially the girl child, who faces more challenges than the boys.

“The girl child experiences more challenges compared to boys, although abuse can be gender indiscriminate. They are prone to sexual abuse, they are impregnated while they are still young and some of those who impregnate them run away. 

“Of concern in our community particularly in Bulilima, we have a lot of school dropouts especially when they complete Grade Seven. These boys end up abusing drugs and being involved in crime while some girls get pregnant and we also see child marriages,” he said.

Dube said the job has empowered him to educate the community members on the causes and effects of child abuse, and the importance of spending time with their children.

“We all have a role in protecting and ensuring that they enjoy their rights. Some of the abuse cases on children occur because parents are not spending time with their children,” said Dube.

However, being a community childcare worker is not an easy task, as they face resistance and hostility from some community members who prefer to hide cases of abuse within families.

 Sifikephi Dube, a community childcare worker, said she has experienced this challenge first-hand.

“Communities didn’t like our work. They called us names not realising that what we did was for the protection of children. In rural areas, there is a thing of hiding cases, especially within families. So we had those issues where people would bad mouth us because of the work we do in protecting the rights of children,” said Dube

She said the use of cellphones has helped them to report cases discreetly to the Social Development Department office and the law enforcement agents, without being noticed by the perpetrators or their accomplices.

The Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mercy Dinha, praised the community childcare workers for their vital role in safeguarding children’s rights. 

She said her ministry appreciates and supports their work, and wants to equip them with the necessary tools to serve their communities effectively.

“My Ministry fully recognises and values the work of community childcare workers, who are the foot soldiers, frontline and extension workers of the Department of Social Development at the community level. Indeed, these cadres need to be capacitated with adequate tools of trade which enable them to effectively serve their communities. This support from Development Partners, Save the Children in particular, hugely builds community capacity to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children through linking them with key prevention and response services,” said Deputy Minister Dinha.


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