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Calls for protection dominate World Children's Day

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi chats with children during Worlds Children's Day on November 18, 2022. [James Wanzala, Standard]

Children have called on the government and other stakeholders to end injustices against them. At the same time, they lauded government’s measures so far at ensuring their safety is guaranteed.

Speaking on behalf of all children during the celebrations to mark World Children’s Day, Nairobi County Kenya Children's Assembly Governor Agnes Mwendwa said children must be shielded from all forms of abuse, and it was up to the government to ensure this is done. 

The celebrations were held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre under the theme: "Equality and Inclusion for Every Child".

Among the achievements, the children lauded the enactment of The Children's Act (2020), which they said is a major milestone in securing their rights and welfare.

Kenya was among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and thereafter the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. These have been domesticated in the Constitution and the Children’s Act 2022.

"We must be shielded against abuse, cyber bulling, and online sexual exploitation, child labour, harmful cultural practises like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages and discrimination," said Mwendwa at the forum yesterday.

The children's ambassador also called on other stakeholders including non-governmental organisations, media, faith-based organisations and members of local communities to work with the government towards this end. 

On inclusivity, the minors demanded to be part of decision-making on matters that concern them.

"Children must be allowed to have a voice and be allowed to give their views on matters that concern them and be given a listening ear as well," said Mwendwa.

According to the 2019 National Violence Against the Child Survey report, about 50 per cent children have faced at least one form of violence in their lives.

Despite efforts by government and other stakeholders, children said they still suffer from various challenges including difficulty in accessing free basic education, violence, lack of safe drinking water, internet and electricity connection.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi who represented the President at the event, said access to internet in schools remains a necessity to impart digital literacy to children so as to prepare them for the workplace and the future ahead.

"To address this, this government is working to connect all primary schools to the Internet by 2030 through the GIGA partnership that has already provided Internet access to 243 schools to the benefit of about 14,000 children," said Mudavadi. 

"We further call on the Inspector General of Police to take immediate steps towards the realisation of child friendly holding facilities in all police stations and assign dedicated police officers to handle children matters as provided for in the Children's Act, 2022," he added.

Supporting the children's calls against discrimination was Nairobi County Woman Representative Esther Passaris, who urged the government to stop discriminating students from faith-based organisations and community schools in distribution of sanitary pads to girls.

"Sanitary pads are provided by government for public schools. I am asking that you should not discriminate against children from the above categories. Let's allocate money for all the children," said Passaris.

Mara Moja Transport chief Executive Officer Ronald Mahondo called for safe, affordable and accessible public school transport, since it’s among the challenges that limit learning outcomes, equality and inclusion for every child.

"Many children are forced to wake up very early as they spend long hours in transit to school or have to walk long distances to get to school. This ultimately influences attendance, academic achievement and outcomes," said Mahondo.

Standard Group Chief Executive Officer Orlando Lyomu said as a media house, they will continue to partner with Unicef to provide a platform to disseminate and discuss issues that affect children.

"In July 2022 we had a children's debate in partnership with Unicef. We shall continue to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute, and defend the rights of the poor and needy," said Lyomu in a speech read by Chief Officer Operations and Strategy Benedict Omolo.

Also present was Jean Lokenga, UNICEF Kenya Representative.