Apr 22, 2011

I'm stuck!

In November 2010 I wrote a letter to the Home Affairs, Education, and Justice Ministers about the status of children locked up with their mothers in Zambian jails and prisons, as well as the problem of overcrowding. This was driven by a report released by the Committee on Government Assurances for the Fourth Session of the Tenth National Assembly.

You can read the report here – the relevant pages are 12-18, though the entire document is worth reading. 

With regards to the children incarcerated with their mothers the committee earnestly appealed to the government to have these children removed for the sake of their psychological and social development. At the time I wrote my letter and emails there was no word on any action taken by government, and the same applies today. Please keep in mind this report was delivered in August 2010, eight months ago.

I also got in touch with the head of African Human Security Initiative (AHSI) project who has been actively involved in the issue of human rights protections for prisoners and prison reform in Zambia and other southern African countries. Sadly, she was leaving the organisation and promised to put me in touch with other people who could be of assistance in my quest to get more attention on this issue. And that’s where that ended.

So, here I am looking for other means to push this issue. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should go about this endeavour? Is there an easier way to contact MPs who sit on committees that deal with human rights issues or prison reform?

5 comments:

Not that i don't appreciate your perspective but when it comes to "the Zambian govt" writing or calling is not gonna cut it. The way I see it, you have 2 options -
1) go do it yourself.
2) Find someone in Zambia that can do for with your $'s .
The prison Fellowship does very good work, I send clothes and shoes to support them, that is another way to help.
I heard a story on BBC about a girl in the Philipines that start a house for such kids, her father was a rich man. she used her allowance and got kitchen equipment from her home to cook for the kids.
Finally when it comes to helping back home, please think very small personal steps..

The question that comes to my mind, is where would these children go? If they are in jail with their mothers, then they likely do not have any relatives willing to take them in. There are very few credible organisations that work in the prisons system. As anonymous has said, it really is only the prison fellowship and they are overwhelmed with volume of work, and insufficient resources (human and financial).

Finding a place for the children to go is the crux of the situation. This is not just about removing them from the prisons and hoping their relatives will take them. And for the children who need to remain with their mothers because they’re still nursing, a solution needs to be found to make the facilities more humane and secure. There will have to be coordination between the Social Welfare Department (which needs to be strengthened and adequately funded), medical professionals such as psychologists, the community at large, and prison officials to make this possible. This cannot be achieved by the government alone, and besides there is no political will to get this done. But that is not to say they are off the hook on this issue!

It will not be enough to just yank the children and throw them in an orphanage, and hope the best. I think an issue paper is in store, in addition to making connections with an NGO like Women for Change for their thoughts and guidance. I haven’t been able to find a local group focused on this issue, so I have to brainstorm and hope I’m not shooting in the dark.

Have you tried the Zambia Human Rights Commission?

http://www.hrc.org.zm/

Mwanabibi, thanks for the suggestion. I've been in touch with the Human Rights Commission and await a response to my query. :-)

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