Violence against children in Kenya remains exceedingly high as plans to mitigate abuse are set

Hjordis Ogendo Head of EU Social and Environment Section with Luvuno Bakari the child Advocate for Plan International (right) in Muhuruni
Primary School Kwale and Jared Muyanga, a GOAL Kenya Child Protection
Ambassador in Fair Oak Primary School  Mukuru Kwa Njenga (Left) during the
Child Protection sensitization  workshop in Nairobi. [Picture: Henry Wahinya ]
Hjordis Ogendo Head of EU Social and Environment Section with Luvuno Bakari the child Advocate for Plan International (right) in Muhuruni Primary School Kwale and Jared Muyanga, a GOAL Kenya Child Protection Ambassador in Fair Oak Primary School Mukuru Kwa Njenga (Left) during the Child Protection sensitization workshop in Nairobi. [Picture: Henry Wahinya ]

At only 15 years, Luvuno Bakari knows the challenges facing the girl-child, and recently she received a standing ovation when she sent out a passionate appeal to state and stakeholders to facilitate the girl-child climb academic ladder.

Luvuno was applauded at a forum discussing violence against children in Nairobi. The meeting was part of a process that unveiled mitigation plans to secure safety of learners and education institutions in times of disasters like during prolonged heavy rains.

Addressing the forum Luvuno said: “Girls with good grades often fail to progress because of their sex.”

With rare courage and confidence for a pupil who had just completed Standard Eight, to the amazement of the audience at the Violence Against Children (VAC) forum organised by Plan International, Luvuno did not spare perpetrators of violence.

This comes at a time when the Day of the African Child is being marked in the continent to draw attention to issues affecting children in the region.

“We need the State and other stakeholders to step in. We can be assisted if sponsors are found. I have seen girls with good grades fail to progress with education due to lack of school fees,” said Luvuno. She added: “Some parents argue that paying school fees for a girl is a waste. They are instead married off. Early and forced marriage is a form of violence meted against the girl child.”

Luvuno, who aspires to be a lawyer, is the Governor of Kwale County Children’s Assembly. She was elected midstream her primary education.

Luvuno stood out among other children at the event when she said: “Each one us has a goal in life that we would want to meet.”

She challenged the organization that deals with education matters that it is part of its mandate to find solutions to problems that may disrupt learning and facilities during the rains.

Violence

Kenya is signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), all being frameworks with a commitment towards response and prevention of all forms of violence against children.

Yet it has been difficult to translate this national imperative to the actual protection of children from sexual, physical and emotional violence.

According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, violence against children in Kenya is exceedingly and unacceptably high, estimating as many as 10 percent of girls and five percent of boys have experienced at least one episode of sexual violence a year before the study was carried out.

The 2010 Kenya Violence against Children Study (VACs) is the first national survey of violence against both female and male children in Kenya.

The findings from the survey indicate that violence against children in Kenya is a serious problem.

Levels of violence prior to age 18 as reported by 18 to 24 year olds (lifetime experiences) indicate that during childhood, 32 percent of females and 18 percent of males experienced sexual violence.

At least 66 percent of females and 73 percent of males experienced physical violence and 26 percent of females and 32 percent of males experienced some form of violence as a child. It also notes that 13 percent of females and nine percent of males experienced all three types of violence during childhood

The National Programme for Child Protection is funded by the European Union (EU) under the thematic programme ‘investing in People’ which pursues a broad approach to development and poverty reduction.

Its global objective aims at contributing to the eradication of all forms of violence against children.

Nine counties of Nairobi, Machakos, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kisumu, Kilifi, Kwale, Mombasa and Marsabit are targeted through 26 statutory children’s institutions, 63 charitable children’s institutions as well as 181 formal and non-formal primary schools.

Plan International focuses on ensuring children’s rights are protected to enable them realize their full potential.

The child protection system is a comprehensive and sustainable approach to preventing and responding to child protection issues, comprising a set of laws, policies, regulations and services required across all social sectors.

“Normally Plan International has disaster programmes which put extra measures in place to mitigate against the impact of excess rainfall such as El-Nino,” explains Samuel Norga, Deputy Country Director Plan International Kenya office. He notes: “Teams are usually dispatched to the ground for emergency response.”

Stresses Norga: “The number targeted is at least 38,000 families. Water storage and treatment facilities are usually put in place in case of flooding in addition to having psychosocial counsellors on the ground.”

In the recently experienced El-Nino rains, some of the identified hot spots did experience floods during short and long rains because they are located in low lying area. Current estimates indicate that at least 800,000 people were displaced and 60 killed during the extreme rains.

It was estimated that about 2.5 million school going children could be affected by the El Nino rains.

The strategy to intervene during the rainy period is among others to establish a data bank of the hot spots.  According to Plan International Kenya Country Director Carol Sherman, they are working with the Teachers Service Commission to prevent teaches from harming pupils while in school.

“The biggest violence take place in schools and also takes the shape of bullying,” observes Sherman”

“We actually intend to black list teachers who sexually abuse pupils and have an identification of beacon teachers to keep an eye on perpetrators,” Sherman says. She notes: “This will help in intensifying efforts to have pupils acquire identification documents and their registration be digitized.”

Sherman reiterates: “The culture of abusing children at home or in school should not be condoned.”

According to Sherman, village savings and loans associations are meant to empower parents financially to deliver food on the table for children.

The forum, where Luvuno spoke, called upon the stakeholders to strengthen the existing structures to eradicate the recurring multiple forms of violence to children across all stages of the National Juvenile Justice System from police custody, through Children’s Courts, statutory institutions, reintegration and after care services.

“Violence against children is entirely preventable. As government, we acknowledge the need to double our efforts in protecting child violence so as to effectively complement the set-up infrastructures and interventions by our development partners,” said Joyce Ngugi, Chairperson of the National Council for Children Services.

The main objective of the conference was to raise awareness on gains made in strengthening child protection systems at local and national levels. The forum called on stakeholders to strengthen the ongoing child protection interventions countrywide.

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