Children appreciate that they are able to access justice whenever their rights are violated.
By Ivy Maloy
On 5th June 2021, children drawn from all the forty-seven counties participated in a webinar with practitioners from various state and non-state agencies in the children’s sector as a build-up activity for the Day of the African Child (DAC) planning committee under the coordination of the National Council for Children’s services. During this webinar, the children raised a number of concerns that needed to be addressed to ensure their full enjoyment of their rights.
The children presented the document on The Day of the African Child held every 16th June since 1991, in honor of the children who participated in the Soweto uprising in 1976 protesting the poor quality of education and demanded their right to be educated in their own language. They requested that the government should intervene on the following issues:
- Charges on acquisition of birth certificates
A birth certificate is an important document for every child to possess. However, some children experience challenges in getting them especially those from border areas with parents from neighboring countries as they go through a lengthy vetting process in order to acquire a birth certificate. Children from refugee settings also cited the same challenges.
- Challenges in education (Infrastructure, reintegration of child mother back to school, provision of sanitary towels)
In as much as primary education is free and secondary education has been made affordable by the government, there are children who have to walk long distances to access this basic right. There are those whose schools are in bad structural conditions which compromise the quality of learning. Also, young mothers face challenges in returning to school after giving birth as some lack psychological support to balance between their education and the added responsibility of motherhood while others simply miss school due to lack of sanitary towels.
- Challenges in access to justice (Reporting and kangaroo courts)
Although children appreciate that they are able to access justice whenever their rights are violated, some experience challenges especially in reporting while some are denied justice when their matters are handled by kangaroo courts sanctioned by parents and community leaders.
- Costly medical services
Children under the age of 5 years can access free medical care while those in public secondary schools are treated under NHIF. The medical costs in the country are very high and there are some who cannot access the NHIF cover or any other cover hence making the children who cannot access free medical services to feel discriminated.
- Lack of safe clean water
Children in some counties have no access to adequate clean water at home, in their institutions and other settings. This compromises on their health and holistic growth and development.
- Domestic violence against children
Violence against children are on the increase especially at home. Most of the violations are committed by people known to them and who should be responsible for their welfare. The pandemic has further aggravated the situation and children are now at a high risk of violence at homes, schools and other institutions of care that should be safe havens for children.
- Strengthening child participation
Children appreciate all the efforts that have been made to ensure that their voices are heard. The establishment of the Kenya Children’s Assembly in 2010 by the government was a big step towards promoting child participation. The operations of this structure have however stalled since 2016 due to lack of funding.
- Bringing street connected children back home
There are many children who live, work and/or are connected to the streets. These children undergo various forms of abuse. They also lack basic needs and healthcare and may not live and develop to their full potential.
The children called upon the government and other stakeholders in the sector to listen to their voices and address their concerns by;
- Creating more awareness on child rights and welfare.
- Make medical services for children free.
- Establish more schools especially in rural areas and improve infrastructure in public schools.
- Revive and strengthen the Kenya Children’s Assembly at all levels.
- Intensify campaigns on violence against children especially in the family level.
- Provide sanitary pads for all girls.
- Strictly enforce the return to school policy for child mothers.
- Rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children who live and work in the streets and support families to prevent more children from going to the streets.
- Provide uninterrupted supply of safe, clean water for schools, residential areas and other institutions for the care of children.
- Develop suitable birth registration processes that allow children to acquire birth certificates.
With the children’s views, we hope that the government and stakeholders in children matters will push for the agendas above in order to make our country fit for children, an Africa Fit for Children. Children are our country’s future hence we should all join hands and put our resources into ensuring their well-being.
Source: Memorandum from The Children of Kenya to The Government of Kenya.