Kenya leads African governments in the protection of children. The key components determining the Governments performance on protection of children include the ratification of international and regional legal instruments, laws that protect children against harm and exploitation and a juvenile justice system, national plan of action and coordinating organisation on children’s rights.
Child protection ranking puts Kenya on top, showing that it has performed well in laying legal and policy foundations tor the protection of children. laws protect children against harmful traditional practices, trafficking and sexual exploitation. lt is one of the countries where corporal punishment is prohibited in schools and penal systems.
A juvenile justice system has been established to deal with children’s cases. A Government agency coordinates national efforts and follows the implementation of children’s rights. In 2003, the Government introduced free primaiy education, which has resulted in high enrolment rates.
The minimum age for marriage and employment in Kenya are consistent with internationally accepted standards for boys and girls. The Government and civil society analyse the situation of children and then write and present a report to a convention in Geneva.
Kenya has submitted two reports and domesticated the Convention on Children’s Rights through the Children’s Act. The country has also domesticated the African Charter on the Rights of the Child.
In the new Constitution, children have the right to a name and nationality, free and compulsory basic education, basic nutrition, shelter and health care. They also have a right to be protected from abuse,
neglect, harmful cultural practices, violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour.
The new law also gives them a right to parental care and protection, not to be detained, except as a measure of last resort, and when detained, to be held for the shortest appropriate period.
The Departinent of`Children’s Affairs is the lead Government agency that coordinates and supervises services and facilities designed to advance the wellbeing ofchildren and their families. lts mandate is drawn from the
Children’s Act, which provides for parental responsibility, fostering, adoption, custody, guardianship, care and protection of children. It also provides for the administration of children’s institutions, leadership, coordination, supervision and provision of seivices in promoting the rights and welfare of all children in Kenya.
There are two types of children’s institutions: Government ones such as remand homes and rehabilitation schools and charitable institutions run by NGOs. The department encourages rehabilitation and integration of child offenders, and protection of all children. It also runs the cash transfer programme for orphaned and vulnerable children.
The Family Care Services section deals with adoption, foster care, guardianship and children in orphanages. Adopted and foster children are protected against abuse or exploitation. However, the National Children’s Policy says adoption societies should avoid separating siblings.
The Institutional Care Services section deals with remand and rehabilitation, and works with district commissioners to place children under proper care. lt ensures that children in conflict with the law are
remanded, rehabilitated and re-integrated. Together with the National Council for Children’s Services, the section has defined guidelines for charitable institutions.
For instance, rehabilitation schools are required to ensure that children are settled in comfortable, supportive and educative environment, in order to constructive lives. Personnel at rehabilitation homes must respect and protect the human dignity of children under supervision, and treat them with affection.
The Department of Children’s Affairs and other partners have established a free child help line 116 – where Kenyans can report cases of child abuse or violence. This was first established with the Government and Childline Kenya.
Other partners such as the World Vision, UNICEF, International Overseas Migration (IOM), Plan International and telephone services providers Safaricom, Zain and Telkom later joined.
The Government provided land and staff while other partners took care of other logistics. Nairobi is the main line and the project has been rolled out in Mombasa, Eldoret and Garissa and other areas with child protection centres.
Structures have been created to empower children in their families, schools, communities and nationally. This is done through ChiIdren’s Voices, a national programme that allows children to air their views on matters that affect them.
The department, on recommendations from the UN Convention on Rights of Children, is working on a document to be used in educating opinion leaders and other stakeholders on the need to listen to children.
Children Volunteer Services
Volunteer officers are recruted to help provide services to children. The Kenya Volunteers Children’s
Services Officer system was introduced under the Kenya-]apan collaboration for improvement of juvenile justice. The concept was first introduced in Trans Nzoia and Kisumu districts as well as Dagoretti Division in Nairobi before it rolled out countrywide.
The volunteers are recruited by the Director of Children’s Services on the recommendation of local advisory
councils. They complement the work of children’s officers.
Volunteer officers ensure that the rights of children are protected, guide children in need ofcare and protection and rehabilitate and reintegrate child offenders into the community. They also promote collaboration with partners and stakeholders on children’s issues in the provision of services and act as secretaries to the locational area advisory council. Volunteer are dismissed if they contravene the code ofconduct or commit criminal offences.
National Council for ChiIdren’s Services in Kenya
National Council for ChiIdren’s Services is charged with securing the well being of children and oversees and policy direction on children’s affairs It approves registration of charitable children’s institutions, mobilises resources for children’s activities and formulates policies and guidelines for the benefit ofthe child.
Way forward for Children in Kenya
The department plans to: Speed up the implementation of children’s rights
- Train people to deal with data collection and entry
- Strengthen donor-coordination, monitoring and evaluation, especially of children’s institutions.
- Train officers, including volunteers, area advisory councils and officials in Government institutions dealing with children
- Seek to stop new media that offer pornographic material from negatively influencing children.