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Reflections on how Selected Shona and Ndebele Proverbs Highlight a Worldview that Promotes a Respect and/or a Violation of Children’s Rights

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This paper sets out to demonstrate that though the un Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) is the most widely accepted Human Rights Convention and Zimbabwe is one of the 193 states acceding to the treaty, there are still challenges in the promotion of children’s rights. Irrespective of the fact that human rights discourse is believed to be a modern concept and its universal application is contested, this paper also demonstrates that children’s rights have always been moral imperatives for both the Shona and Ndebele of Zimbabwe since time immemorial, as shown in their proverbs. Nevertheless, it is also imperative there were some beliefs that, if considered in the modern sense of the human rights paradigm, promoted the violation of some children’s rights. The following discussion shows that children’s autonomy is not culturally a Shona or Ndebele concept, and is often not realized in these cultures even if Zimbabwe adheres to the Convention of the Child’s Rights that stipulates that the child be viewed and treated as an autonomous being. In both Shona and Ndebele traditional cultures, as expressed in their proverbs, parents have an obligation to offer protection to their children. This paper also demonstrates the cultural ambivalence in two specific aspects of child care: the beating up of children as a discipline factor and the raising up of orphans.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Arts, Department of English and Performing Arts at Great Zimbabwe,; 2: Faculty of Arts, Department of African Languages and Literature, Great Zimbabwe University,


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