Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oliver Mtukudzi is New UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa

“I am glad I can play my part in speaking on HIV prevention, against abuse, molestation, stigma and to make our continent a better place for our children.”

Harare, 21 June 2011 – Through his powerful lyrics, renowned Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi has spoken out against stigma, discrimination and abuse of children. His music has gone beyond the Zimbabwean borders and inspired leaders from Government and Civil Society as well as parents to take more positive steps in promoting children’s rights. It is this humanitarian element, which the music icon will continue to push, as he assumes his new role as UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa, focusing on Young People's Development and HIV and AIDS Prevention.

Mtukudzi, affectionately known as “Tuku”, becomes the first Zimbabwean personality among other prominent sports, music and movie stars, who through their artistic gifts, work with UNICEF in advocating for children’s rights.

“Mtukudzi has demonstrated a genuine commitment to communicating strong and clear messages about the importance of child and young people’s rights, including their right to live free from HIV and AIDS.”, said UNICEF Regional Director Elhadj As Sy in his appointment of the music icon. “Our Regional Goodwill Ambassadors are chosen not only because of their name recognition but more particularly because of the respect with which they are held and their appeal as genuine humanitarians.”

Mtukudzi’s appointment to the post on Thursday came during commemorations of the Day of the African Child, an occasion at which “Tuku” spent the day with children at an event hosted at the UNICEF House. More than 300 children from different parts of the country got a chance to interact with this respected musician at the Voices of Children session also attended by senior Government officials, donors, United Nations Agencies, Civil Society Organisations and prominent sports personalities.

“Through his forty year music career, Tuku has championed the plight of the African Child,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Peter Salama. “His songs such as ‘Todii’, and ‘Street Kids’, not only question society’s response to HIV and AIDS and to children living on the streets, but have motivated great progress around these issues.”

A passionate and loving father figure, Mtukudzi accepted the invitation to become Goodwill Ambassador and will join UNICEF and other Goodwill Ambassadors in the world in advocating for the child rights agenda.

“I am humbled by this recognition of my efforts,” said Mtukudzi. “My role as a musician is to raise awareness and motivate wider responses to the social and economic problems that continue to deprive children of a good development. I am glad I can play my part in speaking on HIV prevention, against abuse, molestation, stigma and to make our continent a better place for our children.”

Throughout the commemorations of the Day of the African Child, “Tuku” engaged with the children through strumming some of his popular songs on guitar. This became the second consecutive year that Mtukudzi supported UNICEF advocacy work by joining Zimbabwe’s children in their commemorations of the Day of the African Child in his support of UNICEF Zimbabwe’s advocacy work. Last year, “Tuku” collaborated with UNICEF and wrote a special song dedicated to Zimbabwe's children on the Day of the African Child. The song called on Zimbabwe's leaders to place children highest on the national agenda.

In 2009, on the occasion of CRC@20 he teamed up with UNICEF, the Inclusive Government and partners in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child when UNICEF was calling on all Principals of the Inclusive Government to keep children's rights above and beyond all the political challenges facing the country.

This year’s Day of the African Child commemorations were held under the African Union theme: “All Together for Urgent Actions in Favor of Street Children”. It is a realisation of the huge challenge facing children living outside the family environment, whether because of poverty, abuse or HIV and AIDS. Throughout June and July, different activities will be held in the country, including children’s rights sensitization sessions; media outreach and the 19th session of the children’s parliament to be held on 16 July 2011, focused on children and the Constitution.

In Zimbabwe, the growing population of children living on the streets is a reflection of the high orphan population in the country. One in four children in Zimbabwe has lost one or both parents, most of them as a result of HIV and AIDS. Undoubtedly, many of these young people face immense challenges and deprivations and struggle to access even the most basic social services, forcing them into undesirable situations such as living on the streets.

Biography – Oliver Mtukudzi
Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi is a Zimbabwean Musician (born September 22, 1952 in Highfield, Harare).

Gifted with a deep and gusty voice plus a talent for writing songs that reflect on the daily life and struggles of the people, Mtukudzi’s career has spanned more than twenty years. Mtukudzi has produced 42 original albums, most of them bestsellers. But it is his dedication to the live music scene in Zimbabwe - playing to enthusiastic audiences even in the remotest parts of the country - that has earned him the respect and admiration of the people in Zimbabwe. Oliver’s desire to bring his message to a wider audience led him to venture into the worlds of film and stage.

He sings in the nation's dominant Shona language along with Ndebele and English. He also incorporates elements of different musical traditions, giving his music a distinctive style, known to fans as "Tuku Music". Apart from the individuality of his music, Tuku's enduring popularity has largely resulted from his powers as a lyricist. Most of his songs focus on the social and economic issues that govern people's daily lives. His infectious sense of optimism that pervades all his music, appeals to young and old alike. His commitment to fighting the AIDs pandemic through his open approach to the topic in his songs has contributed greatly to restoring a sense of care and responsibility within the wider community.

As the oldest of seven children, Oliver developed a sense of social and economic responsibility early in life due to the premature death of his father. He is the father of five children and has two grandchildren, two of whom are also musicians. His son Sam Mtukudzi, a successful musician in his own right, died in a car accident in March 2010.

Oliver Mtukudzi has been collaborating with UNICEF Zimbabwe on a number of themes including child and youth participation and HIV prevention. Worth noting is Mtukudzi’s song “Deaf Hear”, especially composed and dedicated to children, at the request of UNICEF Zimbabwe and donated free of charge on the occasion of the 2010 ‘Day of the African Child’ commemorations.

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