[Member Spotlight] Centre Stage Media Arts Zimbabwe

This member spotlight features an interview with @paulsixpence, of the Centre Stage Media Arts in Zimbabwe and the newest member moderator here on our community forum.

What is your organization’s mission?

Centre Stage Media Arts Foundation (CSMA), founded in 2006, is a national human rights organisation, implementing community based legal and human rights interventions in various communities in Zimbabwe. Through the use of various aspects of the media and arts to promote human rights, engage in advocacy work, document and monitor adherence to national and international human rights standards, CSMA seeks to place the law in the hands of ordinary citizens and communities.

CSMA has been actively involved in legal empowerment work for the past 12 years. Over the past 12 years CSMA has implemented various programmes aimed at empowering individuals and communities with the law and also advise on how to use the law to emancipate themselves.

CSMA is currently implementing a legal and policy education project, aimed at equipping children, parents, guardians and community opinion leaders with legal and policy information on the acquisition of national identity documents for children in under-resourced communities in Zimbabwe. This project has been in existence since 2012. Through this project, CSMA, through advocacy seeks to implore national authorities to reform the law and policies to enable children to easily access national identity documents.

What kind of issues does your legal empowerment work address?

CSMA is working to address the problem of access to (citizenship) national identity documents by orphaned and vulnerable children in select communities in the provinces of Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.

In 2012, CSMA did a mapping exercise to identify children without birth certificates in the aforementioned provinces and at one school in Matabeleland South out of a total population of 600 students, 300 did not have birth certificates. The reasons proffered for these children for being unable to have birth certificates were:

  1. Lack of understanding of the process and requirements for obtaining the birth certificates,

  2. Bureaucratic hurdles in the process of acquiring birth certificates,

  3. Inability to travel to birth registration centres due to distance,

  4. Difficulties in fulfilling the requirements for registering a new birth with respect to guardians taking care of orphaned and other vulnerable children.

The case highlighted above is just but a microcosm of a national problem of children born in Zimbabwe or to Zimbabwean parents but having difficulties in accessing national identity documents and hence citizenship.

CSMA through various aspects of the arts and media combined with legal education and human rights advocacy seeks to empower emancipated children (those who are above the age of 16), parents, guardians and community opinion leaders with the requisite legal knowledge, tools and skills to enable them to acquire national identity documents for orphaned and vulnerable minors.

How are you using legal empowerment to address the problems? You can include a brief example of a case to describe your work.

CSMA uses the following legal empowerment methods:

  1. Legal education (arming our constituents with the law and how to use it)

CSMA conducts legal education workshops through its network of paralegals in rural and urban communities of Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces.

Our community legal education workshops target children, guardians and community opinion leaders.

In conducting our community legal education workshops we use pedagogic and non-pedagogic teaching methods.

  1. High level policy and legal reform advocacy (shaping the law)

CSMA is advocating for national authorities to amend laws relating to the acquisition of national identity cards to enable children orphaned by various national episodes of national strife (political violence), national and natural disasters to easily acquire national identity documents.

CSMA is also advocating for national authorities to avail mobile or temporary national identity acquisition points in impoverished rural and urban communities to enable communities to assist children in their care access national identity documents.

  1. Mapping children without national identity documents

CSMA is also implementing an ongoing exercise aimed at identifying and mapping children without national identity documents in various communities that we are working in. This information will strengthen CSMA’s advocacy efforts.

  1. Monitoring and documenting human rights violations

CSMA monitors and documents human rights violations in cases of refusal by authorities to issue national identity documents. This is done through video and research.

What is/are major challenge(s) you face in your work, and what are you doing to overcome them?

In Zimbabwe, it is difficult for a child without national identity documents (proof of citizenship) to access national social services such as health care, education and gain employment in their adulthood.

Zimbabwe’s national health policy stipulates that children aged 5 years and below should access health care for free and public health facilities. For a child to access this service, the parent or guardian must produce proof of age, of which in most circumstances its either the birth certificate or infant health card.

Further, for a child to be afforded an opportunity to sit for national public high school examinations or enroll for tertiary education at public colleges and universities, they are required to produce national identity documents as proof of citizenship.

Above all, an individual can only belong to a State if they are a citizen. It therefore follows that without citizenship an individual loses the right to dignity and to belong to a State.

Noting the aforementioned, our efforts at CSMA have afforded 1 248 children the right to belong to the nation-State of Zimbabwe and to enjoy all the attendant benefits that comes with citizenship.

What are the strategies you employ to ensure the long-term sustainability of your work?

The long term sustainability of our project rests upon the following strategies that we employ:

  1. Social Entrepreneurship

From time to time, CSMA, collaborates with artists from the communities that we serve to produce cultural products (music and dance) that we sell for a profit.

At the beginning of this year, 2019, CSMA established an events management unit, manned by volunteers drawn from the corporate world. The aim of this unit is to fundraise for the organisation through events management work for corporates.

  1. Partnership

CSMA partners with community, national and international non-governmental organisations that work with communities that we serve or share our passion in legal empowerment.

  1. Use of volunteers

At the beginning of 2019, CSMA had 7 permanent staff members. We have a network of over 90 volunteers who will call upon to assist us from time to time.

All para-legals that we work with are un-paid volunteers.

Do you have any advice for other organizations about achieving scale?

CSMA’s work exhibits creativity and innovative thinking through its use of aspects of the media and arts to break down the complexity of law and policies for easy access and use by poor individuals and under-resourced communities to emancipate themselves.

Our model is based on the idea that, aspects of popular culture, that is, the media and arts enthuse interest among their audiences. It therefore follows that cultural products designed to reach out to people, with the triple intentions of informing, educating and entertaining in an informal set-up are better received by the people. Noting this strength of popular culture, we infused legal education and awareness into cultural products that we produce in order to legally empower our target constituencies.

Further, CSMA, uses aspects of the media and arts to advocate for policy change and reform as well as to document and monitor human rights violations.

Do you have any tips for other practitioners?

  1. Legal empowerment work does not provide quick turn-arounds. It may take years and years before you realise your vision and what you set out to change in the first place.

  2. Passion is very important. Your success or lack there-of in legal empowerment work will not be derived from your education but rather your passion for social change, human rights and legal empowerment of marginalised individuals and communities.

  3. Always let the affected individuals and communities lead in any legal empowerment project.

  4. Build partnerships and alliances with a diverse actors

Do you have any recommendations for a book, a quote, a resource or piece of art or music that keeps you or your team inspired and motivated?

There is a quote from Nelson Mandela, that anchors the work of CSMA on issues related to justice. The quote hangs from a picture frame on the entrance into our offices;

‘The basic human rights for all citizens have to be protected and guaranteed, to ensure the genuine liberty of every individual,’ Nelson Mandela

If you have questions or thoughts to share about this member’s work, please share them below


Member Spotlights are short interview profiles focusing on members of the Global Legal Empowerment Network. Spotlight articles use case studies to provide useful insights into the work of other network members. Whether you are working in the same country, with similar issues, or want to understand new legal empowerment approaches, the Member Spotlight is a useful learning resource. You can read more about other organizations in our network here or by searching spotlight in our forum.

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