I am greatly honoured and privileged to be here, in this august house. As I am seated here I represent the children in Marondera Central where I come from, I represent the 13 year old girl deep down in Muzarabani who right now, as we speak awaits her aunt or even mother perhaps to take her to her anxiously waiting pervert husband, old enough to be her father’s older brother. I carry with me all their aspirations, wishes, dreams and feelings, even their seemingly shattered dreams in the plantations of Chiredzi where they have been toiling in the fields of huge plantation masters since 3am when the cold cracks their bare feet to the bone. I bring them all the way so that they may be known intimately by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Honourable members I know you carry with you the same special responsibility. May I welcome you all to the Official Opening of the 24th session of the Junior Parliament of this great nation of Zimbabwe.
Members of the August House please allow me to express our deep gratitude to His Excellency, Your Excellency we are greatly honoured to have you here. I am informed that you have never missed this grand occasion. This day, the day we officially open the Junior parliament and commemorate the Day of the African Child is special to the children of Zimbabwe, and indeed of the whole of Africa. Secondly I would like to thank you, the children of Zimbabwe who answered to the important task to be your brother and sister’s keeper. I congratulate you for having made it this far, I request you to take this task seriously. Today we must add onto the legacy of our predecessors and we must do it in such a way that those that come after us may also build onto our legacy and eventually in no time we will achieved the vision of an empowered society and a growing economy.
It is this same vein that the outgoing Junior Parliament had a unique opportunity to be involved in developing the Zimbabwe Youth Empowerment Strategy on Investment initiated by the Ministry of Youth Indigenization and Economic Empowerment. The strategy that has been handed over to us opens up a wide and new avenue for the growth and development of the young person of Zimbabwe and I look forward to continue working with them(more on YES) Empowerment is at the heart of every individual’s emancipation. I thank you heartily for the lessons you have passed down to us, and for the future we shall share as we become champions and heroes of the Economic Empowerment Revolution. I recognize that the flagship programme for the Zimbabwe Youth Empowerment Strategy for Investment is the identification and recognition of the Zimbabwe champions and Heroes of the Economic Empowerment Revolution.
Today there are millions of options for young people who want to explore the world and make it their footstool. Despite this glitter of options brought in by the global world, millions of children lose their ability to make any choice when they are forced early in life to take life changing paths. To that end the war against child marriages must not end. Every child boy or girl must be given an opportunity to grow. So we must all thank our parents who have brought us this far. Every child deserves his or her childhood. Let it not be taken away too soon. There are those of us that are not very academically gifted, government must ensure that there are alternatives for them. One such alternative is Vocational Training. We are also grateful for the support and guidance received from our various schools. Our heads of schools and teachers are special human beings and for most of us if not all of us school is a second home. We urge all schools and authorities to keep on encouraging this homely care we receive at school.
This special day is today but a celebration, yet 40 years ago on this day it was chaos in Soweto. On this day children our age took to the streets and literally got their lives snatched from them for fighting oppression. Here at home, life was no different. But it is with great interest that we today convene in this place, every-one of us, looking forward to a new course for the young people of this great nation of Zimbabwe. It is fortuitous that only a few months ago, in April His Excellency the President met with our fathers and mothers, the liberation war veterans who committed to fight for the liberation of this country when they were as young as we are. We must also commit fight for the economic liberation of Zimbabwe as we build on that important legacy of the political independence. We will be Zimbabwe’s champions and heroes of the economic empowerment revolution. In April the President met with the Heroes of yesterday and today the President meets with the heroes of tomorrow. We will complete the liberation that our parents started.
Honourable Members, Madam Speaker, quite a lot has been done to empower the young person of Zimbabwe. A lot of money and energy has gone in investing in young people. Priority being given to education, health, peace and security. Even as we debate this year’s theme and celebrate this peace that no one can take away from us remember those that lost their lives in conflict and crisis all over Africa and indeed all over the world.
Back home, government has embarked on several efforts to ensure that citizens and in particular children enjoy the peace that was earned on the day of the country’s independence. As children Honourable Members you will be aware of various efforts that government has made for our wholesome growth and development. Several strategies have been employed to ensure that all children have access to education and special education. As children we are grateful for the latest efforts by government to review the curriculum. You will also be aware of the BEAM programme to ensure those that cannot afford school fees attend school and their welfare taken care of in part by the cash transfer programme. This has also been all inclusive as government gives special attention to the children living with disability through its disability fund.
The Health system has improved immensely and recently we celebrated the ruling by the constitutional court when is ruled Child Marriages as unconstitutional. Let us give a standing ovation to the government of this country ably led by His Excellency who exactly a year ago in this house rebuked this practice and the Honourable Vice President and Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs made a promise to us that the days of Child Marriages were numbered. Honourable members, I feel this was an opportunity to remind members that whatever we are doing as government is working and appreciated.
As for the Junior Parliament, it must continue actively engaging its constituency as well as government to ensure that programmes for youth are developed and effectively implemented. To that effect the Junior Parliament must not meet once a year as is the case. The Junior Parliament is not Christmas that it must come once a year! It must be well funded for regular fruitful sessions. And while we are celebrating the Day of the African Child it must be a vehicle to support other countries develop a similar programme for children and young people of Africa.
Honourable members as we reflect on the theme of the Day of the African Child you will also be reminded of the efforts to align our laws so that every citizen is guaranteed their right to full life, peace, happiness and growth. Madam/Mister Speaker Sir, our own Ministry has been as busy working on the said Youth Empowerment Strategy to empower young people in Zimbabwe. And this as we reflect on the issues of the day has become our theme for the Zimbabwean celebrations of this day. And it reads “Investing in children and youth for an empowered society and a growing economy in order to prevent conflict and crisis, and protect children’s rights” I therefore use this opening presidential address to table this key issue to the house for debate. Empowerment of children and young people in the year 2016 and 2017 will shape part of the agenda of the 24th Session of this Parliament. And it is in line with the African Union 2017 theme which reads, “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in Youth”. Madam Speaker, Madam President, consistent with this years’ theme of the Day of the African Child, and the AU theme I wish the House to debate progressively sharing with the house our experiences and expectations. Madam Speaker, may I end by commending those who have extended their support to the children of Zimbabwe and in particular to this Junior Parliament.
I wish to commend the government of Zimbabwe, the government ministries and departments that have been our faithful partners over the years. This year I would also like to recognize and appreciate the work of the Children’s Guard of Honour and all those that are in the background supporting them to partner us in this Grand National event. Madam Speaker, I wish also to recognise the contribution of UNICEF Zimbabwe and all other Civil Society organizations to the successful convening of the Junior Parliament. If it were up to me, all your efforts would be put towards ending child marriages first and secondly ensuring that every child boy or girl stays in school. I am a girl but the fight is not just for me but for the boy child as well. On my behalf as Junior President, on behalf of the Zimbabwe Youth Council our mother body, and indeed on behalf of every child and young person in this country may I extend our appreciation to the President, Cde R,G Mugabe for having prioritised the Child Parliament over the years. Your Excellency, I thank you a million times. We look forward to your fatherly address later today. To all the honourable members in this house, may I wish you all the best in your term of office, and in so doing may I declare this 24th session of the Junior Parliament duly opened.
I thank you.