It takes us all to end child marriages

Woman shows support for campaign. Photo Joyce Chimbi
Woman shows support for campaign. Photo Joyce Chimbi

Roseline Mocho is barely 20 years but she is already a mother of four children the oldest is in Class two and the youngest is in nursery school.

She lives in Eramatishoriki village in Narok County 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 ten years old and later gets married,” she explains.

Her case is not unique, in fact this is more the norm than the exception.

“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 women paint the life and times of women living in communities that have not embraced the rights of women.

But 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 to enjoy their childhood. Girls undergo the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) even though it was outlawed in 2011 through the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2011.

The girls are then quickly married of, often to old men beginning child bearing at an early age, a good number of them do not survive the rigors of child birth.

FGM is still the get way to marriage and stakeholders have been 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” on March 15 in Ilaramatak Area Development Programme in Narok County.

The location was no coincidence since according to the World Vision Ilaramatak area has a high prevalence of child marriages at an estimated 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 the plight of children.

It is because of such interventions that thousands of girls in marginalized communities in Narok and West Pokot, among many other Counties, that girls have not only stayed in school but excelled and managed to escape the shackles of poverty.

One such girl should have been married on March 15, the same day that the launch took place had it not been for the intervention of the World Vision.

The organization has called for the allocation of at least 25 percent of the national budget to children.

“Kenya’s population is about 44 million with 53 percent being children,” said the World Vision Kenya Interim National Director John Makoni.

It takes us all campaign kicks off in Narok. Photo Joyce ChimbiIt takes us all

Further saying that as an organization “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 got anywhere alone.

“It takes children’s voices, government, humanitarian workers, faith based organizations, donors, the media and all stakeholders to end violence against children,” Makoni said.

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 under FGM before the age of 18 and this is by the most recent Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014/15.

Further, a study conducted by Child Welfare Organisation and Childline Kenya indicated that nearly 800 children were abused annually in Kenya.

This is not forgetting the fact that one in every four girls will have been married before the age of 18 years.

These statistics are not just numbers, these are young lives. Children who never got a chance to be children and to rise to their fullest potential, to attend school and to have choices just like other children.

The 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 also the effect of child neglect drives or pushes children to marry before the age of 18,” said 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 this 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,” Makoni emphasized.

The launch of this campaign is expected to kick off a journey that will put an end to all forms of violence against children and by doing so open many doors for children who continue to be oppressed in the name of culture, traditions or simply, just poor parenting.

It in deeds takes all of us to give these children a fighting chance.

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