‘It takes us all’ campaign launched to end child marriages
Roseline Mocho is barely 20 years old but she is already a mother of four with her eldest child being in Class Two and the youngest in nursery school.
Eramatishoriki Village in Narok County where Mocho lives is notorious for perpetuating traditions that have created a conducive environment for the abuse of children in the name of culture.
“I never went to school and the life that I know is that a girl is cut once she is 10-years-old and later gets married,” she explains.
Mocho’s case is not unique as their more the norm than the exception in this region.
“I also did not go to school. I was cut and I got married, I have three children,” says Ann Tigisha who is also barely 20 years.
These young women paint picture of the life and times of young women living in communities that have not embraced the rights of women.
It speaks to a far much deeper issue and that is the lack of protection of children, particularly the girl-child from all forms of abuse.
Let children be children
Children in many communities are still not being allowed to be children and given space to enjoy their childhood. Girls in the Maasai community are forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) even though it was outlawed in 2011 through the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act. The challenge is the enforcement aspect and changing the attitude of elders who are the custodians of culture to help the community abandon the harmful practice.
Once the girls have been gut, they are quickly married off, often to older men beginning child bearing at a very early age when their bodies have not fully developed for holding a pregnancy. A good number of them do not survive the rigours of child birth.
Female genital mutilation is still the get way to marriage and stakeholders are being called upon through a global campaign dubbed “It takes us all” to contribute to ending all forms of violence against women.
It is within this context that the World Vision Kenya recently launched the “It takes us all campaign” at the Ilaramatak Area Development Programme in Narok County.
The location was no coincidence since according to the World Vision, Ilaramatak has a high prevalence of child marriages, standing at 41 percent.
World Vision has remained in the front line in as far as protection of children is concerned working in various counties to highlight the unfortunate circumstances under which children continue to grow, but also putting interventions to address their plight.
It is because of such interventions that thousands of girls in marginalised communities in Narok and West Pokot among other counties have not only stayed in school but excelled and managed to escape the shackles of poverty.
One such girl would have been married on March 15, the same day that the launch took place had it not been for the intervention of World Vision.
The organisation has called for the allocation of at least 25 percent of the national budget to children programmes.
“Kenya’s population is about 44 million with 53 percent being children,” said John Makoni, Interim National Director World Vision Kenya.
It takes us all
As an organisation, Makoni said: “We want to influence positive change in attitude, beliefs and practices, strengthen household economic capacities to provide basic needs for the children.”
The slogan ‘it takes us all,’ with a social media hash tag #IttakesusallKE has been informed by the fact that no one get anywhere alone.
“It takes children’s voices, government, humanitarian workers, faith based organisations, donors, the media and all stakeholders to end violence against children,” reiterated Makoni.
Statistics on the status of children revealed by various stakeholders paint an alarming picture.
At least 21 percent of women and girls aged between 15 to 49 years will undergo FGM before the age of 18 and this is by the most recent Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014-2015.
Another study conducted by Child Welfare Organisation and Childline Kenya reveals that nearly 800 children in Kenya are abused annually.
This is not forgetting the fact that one in every four girls will have been married before the age of 18.
These grim statistics are not just numbers, these are young lives. Children who never got a chance to be children and rise to their fullest potential, attend school and have life choices just like other children, remain the most affected.
World Vision Kenya defines violence against children as all forms of physical, sexual and mental violence, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, harm or abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour, cyber abuse and harmful practices such as FGM.
Parental care crucial
“Minimal knowledge and skills on parental care, protection and the effect of child neglect drives or pushes children to be married off before the age of 18,” noted Makoni.
Mocho and Tigisha who have experienced the full brunt of FGM, early marriage and early pregnancies were both present at the launch.
They both hailed the initiative saying that thousands of children including their own will benefit greatly from the campaign.
“We suffer because we did not go to school so what else can we do other than get married?” Mocho poses.
The campaign is targeting such parents in a bid to enhance parental knowledge and skills to improve care and protection of their children.
“Girls who undergo FGM are at a higher risk of being married off before the age of 18. Advancement of negative customary beliefs and practices pushes families to marry off their children before they reach 18 years, the age of majority according to the law and Constitution,” said Makoni.
The launch of the campaign is expected to kick off a journey that will put an end to all forms of violence against children and by so doing, open many doors for children who continue to be oppressed in the name of culture and traditions or simply just poor parenting.