Southern Africa

Working to enhance the protection and participation of children and youth and campaigning for sustainable change in Zimbabwe and Zambia

What we are trying to change

More and more children and young people are moving both within and between countries Southern Africa, often compelled to do so because of political crises, natural disasters or a lack of education or employment opportunities. Most move towards South Africa from neighbouring countries Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, or from further afield, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some move with their parents or other family members. Others move alone, some because they have been separated from their companions. They are at risk of abuse, exploitation and violence.

Yet protection systems are inadequate. Communities are insufficiently aware of why children and young people are leaving or moving and of what rights they have, and without this knowledge, are ill equipped to support them. Children and young people themselves are often not aware of their rights and where to turn for services and support. They are not sufficiently involved in making decisions that affect them and they are not heard in discussions about policies and practice to support and protect children and youth on the move.

Roxanna’s story

Roxanna is 14 years old and from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She made the journey to South Africa with her two older siblings to meet their mother who was already living there. They do not know where their father is. The journey was very long, and Roxanna was forced to hide from border officers at every crossing as she had no ID. Although she made it to South Africa, she still faces many challenges. Her family is constantly moving because they can’t afford rent; she has been prevented from applying to schools because she doesn’t have documentation. Roxanna says she has no identity. She tells us she feels insecure. Roxanna has not been able to get formal documentation in South Africa – and without this she cannot access all her rights.

What we are doing

Destination Unknown is working to enhance the protection and participation of children and youth with a focus on Tongagara refugee camp in Zimbabwe and Mantampala refugee camp in Zambia. Working with local civil society organisations, traditional leaders, government departments and schools, we are promoting coordination, increasing awareness of the realities and protection needs of children and young people, and supporting child led initiatives and platforms.

Children and young people are identifying what is most important to them to help us decide on a campaign focus for Destination Unknown for Southern Africa.

Members and partners in Southern Africa

In each region, we work with a variety of local, national and international youth-led organisations and civil society organisations whose work is grounded in the rights of the child, and which have expertise in child protection, mobility, research and campaigning. Our members work in many different ways to promote and enhance protection and the participation of children and young people.

Take action

Are you interested in being part of Destination Unknown’s network of young people in Southern Africa? 

Do you want to be in touch with other young people and at the heart of developing and driving campaigns so that the rights of children and young people on the move are respected, upheld and protected?

Get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

Take action

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Promising Practices

Mobile legal clinic for children in South Africa
Find out about the mobile legal clinic run by Lawyers for Human Rights which is helping children on the move to know and claim their rights and for their right to protection from exploitation and abuse to be upheld.

Stay informed