Write a story

Forced child begging... Poverty in Zimbabwe?

It has just gone past 2pm, and it’s hot. Nomsa Musiringofa is seated on a pavement along Speke Avenue near Joina City shopping mall. The sweat is running down her face and the eyes are red—probably she’s tired or feeling dizzy.

Her two children—aged seven and nine are roaming within the vicinity begging for leftovers from walkers.

“Things are hard. My kids want food, I can’t afford to fed for my family. I was impregnated while in the streets and I don’t know the father to my kids,” said Musiringofa.

No matter how difficult or shameful it is, the two children must beg because their mother is not getting enough to feed the family.

While the children are begging, Musiringofa is looking at how she could market her skin lightening creams which are stashed in her dirty bag.

The creams are illegal, and police can arrest her anytime if she displays them on the pavements.

"We do not always have to follow them everywhere they go," she says. "We just watch them as they beg for money from strangers passing-by. They have been doing this for a considerable part of their lives."

Whilst their peers are on a school break, these two have been condemned to abject poverty in the streets.

The children whom we have christened Tino and Tari, do not beg for money only but they also ask for food putting their lives at risk of food poisoning.

From a distance, the younger one reaches for her mother’s purse.  She wants to put a dollar that had been handed over to her by a stranger.  The mother maintains eye contact creating an uneasy experience.

As soon as she puts the dollar in her mother’s bag, the little girl turns to another passerby with a pity looking face and a convincing voice full of remorse.

"May I please have money? I need money for school fees," she pleads in a mousy voice.

Exasperated, the lady shrugs her off slipping purse from her tiny palms and looks for a dirty two dollar note which she hands over to the girl.

Everyone does this to the young children begging along the street.

"It is disheartening," says Bradley Thompson, a woman who had given the girl a two dollar note.

"You may give them money, but after doing so, some will go and buy drugs. Most of them are unreal hence you may not know who needs help or not."

This is almost the same story for children begging in every busy part of Harare, these children can be regularly seen at traffic roads, in front of shops and public parks such as Harare Gardens and Africa Unity Square.

According to a report by Save the Children, child beggars are exposed to various predicaments such as abuse, exploitation and in some cases becoming victims of trafficking.

Save the Children adds that most child beggars are excluded from attaining any form of education—depriving them of the right to education.

People who do business in First Street said this has become the life for so many children who beg in the popular street.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines ‘begging’ as a range of activities whereby one individual asks a stranger for money because of being poor.

Begging is the most present form of exploitation according to ILO and has serious consequences for the children’s behaviour and performances as they are exposed to child labour.

In some instances, children trail their victims and nag until they are given whatever they require.

"They have to devise new ways of begging. Sometimes we help them because of the behavior they exhibit, not out of pity," Thompson adds.

Despite a scathing record tagged on the children, their parents jump in their defense.

"We trained our children well," says one of the mothers as she beckons her toddler playing close to Speke footbridge. "We encourage them not to tug people. Also, we have taught them not to pester strangers should they not be given money.

"However, children shall be children. We cannot wholly defend them, but we always make sure they are close," she says.

Money collected is channeled towards funding their education, says the mother of the two children.

On average, they can earn US$2-5 on good day. This means they can rake an estimated US$10-25 every five working days of the week.

"I am a single mother trying to make a living. My husband left us five years ago," says Grace Nyaruve, one of the mothers.

Whilst their guardians say they are wallowing in poverty, children have had to feel the brunt of it.

Over 50 percent of Zimbabwe's population has been pushed into poverty, recent statistics by World Bank reveal.

About 7, 9 million people were pushed into poverty between 2011 and 2021 with 23% losing employment by June 2020.

Children have been largely affected, says the report.

The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) states that 20% of children between the age of 4-6 years could not attend school due to cost of education.

Such is the fate facing children plying the begging trade in various areas dotted around the Central Business District.

Child rights activists insist that the lack of ramping social protection was pushing children in the streets and some of them are now engaged in drug abuse, child sex work and in some cases, hard core criminal enterprises like pickpocketing or theft.

"Government alone cannot solve the problem," says Ekenia Chifamba, Director at Shamwari YeMwanasikana (SYM), a girl-child lobby organization.

"Parents of these children need to be held liable for their children's actions.  In most cases we have parents who send their children to beg whilst they look from a distance."

Chifamba says her organisation has been working towards providing fees for children hailing from underprivileged families. Nevertheless, the budgets are depleted.

Economic poverty has been heighted as a major role, although other factors are of equally of high importance in driving child begging.

These can include parental deaths, parental neglect, and other social factors such as violence and abuse of children at home or within communities. 

Discrimination, lack of access to justice, a lack of legal status (due to a lack of birth registration for example) all contribute to a situation where a child is living or working on the street. 

Street-connected children are vulnerable to exploitation by abusers who may sexually assault them, forcibly recruit them into criminal activities, traffic them and send them out into the streets to beg and steal. 

 SYM says they have been working on creating a haven for children some of whom are victims to negligence.

She says this will help reduce the problem of children begging in the streets. 

Rutendo Maraire


Leave a comment

Get In Touch

12th Floor, Fidelity Life Towers 7 Reighly Street,Harare

(263) 776 517 766


Follow Us
Our Photos

© SM News. All Rights Reserved. Design by Webiconic