Literature review : the conditions of children in Bulawayo’s We need new names.

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compiled by Florence Madzikatire

This article serves to discuss how children’s rights are being violated on the text We need new names by NoViolet Bulawayo.


According to the constitution of Zimbabwe (2013), section 81, children born in Zimbabwe or born from Zimbabwean citizens have the rights to equal treatment before the law, right to family and parental care, to be protected from economic and sexual exploitation, to education and health services, to nutrition and shelter, to adequate protection by courts, in particular the high court as their upper guardian.

This section of the constitution also emphasizes that a child’s best interests are paramount in every matter concerning the child.

The world health organization summarized the rights if children into four categories which are Right to Survival – to life, health, nutrition, name, nationality. Right to Development – to education, care, leisure, recreation, cultural activities. Right to Protection – from exploitation, abuse, neglect. Right to Participation – to expression, information, thought, religion. It should be noted that there are other organizations that are concerned with the rights of children and these organization may intervene when a country fails to resolve or honour children’ rights. These organizations include UNICEF, WHO and Childcare.

To begin with, children’ rights to family and parental care is being violated in the novel. This is evidenced in the story ‘Hitting Budapest’ whereby the children wonder in the streets without grown up people to look after them. Darling, the narrator tell us that a lot of people went away to look for employment. This includes her father and mother as well as other parents from Paradise.

In addition, another right being violated is the right to survival in as far as nutrition and health is concerned. This is evidenced in the story when the narrator states that ‘we didn’t eat this morning and my stomach feels like somebody just took a shovel and dug everything out’.

This results in the children resolving to stealing and removing shoes from a corpse so they could sell them and get money to buy food.

Rape is also evident in the story and is a violation of the right of children to be protected from sexual exploitation. Chipo is a minor who is pregnant. Later in the novel it is revealed that she was sexually exploited by her uncle. This shows how the children are at risk and therefore need protection from their family members and strangers too.

Furthermore, the children apart from being sexually exploited, they are also being exposed to sexual content. This is evidenced in the story when Darling witnesses Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mboro ministers on the mikoro woman ‘while putting his hands on her thing and rubbing and praying for it’. She also witnesses her mother’s infidelities and while in America, she and her friends watched pornography.


cover page of the original text.

Children, according to the Zimbabwean constitution are entitled to be protected from maltreatment , neglect or any form of abuse. This right is being violated in the story when Darling compares a misbehaving child in the African set up and in the American set up. She confesses that in America she feels like a human being, because she was asked what she wanted to eat and were she wanted to go. the amount of beatings incurred by the African child and the culture of following orders can be said to be a form of abuse.

It should be noted that children are also exposed to another kind of abuse which is psychological. In the story ‘angel’, the narrator speaks of ‘homes’ whereby she explains that she often confuses the homes when someone talks about them. There is a home before colonization, a home after colonization, a home under the white governance , a home after removing whites from power as well as a home in America. This shows how the moving from one home to another makes ther children fail to cherish any. As a result, of this moving,darling fails to make meaningful conversations with her childhood friends.

The right to be protected from child labour is also being violated in the story. This is evidenced in the story where aunt Fostalina tells darling that she has to work in order to make more money.

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