Kenya is a signatory to numerous global and regional treaties and conventions that promote the rights of children, key of which is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
The Children’s Act (2001) was a major milestone in domestication of these legal frameworks and promotion of children’s rights in Kenya. Since 2001, Kenya has made significant progress towards promoting the rights of children, including a robust policy and legal framework and corresponding systems and structures to support child care, protection and participation.
However, there still exist gaps and challenges for Kenyan children to fully realise their rights, necessitating policy and legal reform from time to time. On October 13th 2021 through approval of the House Business Committee, the Children’s Bill (2021) was tabled before the National Assembly for first reading. The Bill seeks to among other things, address specific emerging issues that affect children.
Since enactment of the Children’s Act (2001), a number of issues have emerged posing significant challenges and deterring children from realising all their rights. These include increased cases of abuse and violence against children (including online exploitation); trafficking; escalation of numbers of missing children; sexual grooming and exploitation; inadequate allocation of resources to child welfare programmes; challenges in coordination of stakeholders in the children’s sector for better access to services by children; inadequate data and information to inform planning and implementation of policies and programmes. The Bill seeks to address these challenges.
The Children Bill (2021) is progressive in enhancing protection and promotion of all children by aligning to the provisions of the 2010 Constitution, which takes cognizance of international law under Article 2(5) and (6). The Bill further recognises the fundamental rights of children as a vulnerable group.
While recognising children in need of care and protection, part II of the Bill further provides for safeguarding of the rights and basic interests of the child taking into consideration issues like violence against children; access to justice for children through diversion programs; the right to parental care and inclusion of alternative care services such as kinship, guardianship, adoption, kafaalah, foster care, care in emergencies among others, for children who may not thrive within the biological family.
The Bill introduces provisions for social security to enable orphaned and vulnerable children to access alternative care services as a fulfillment of the provisions of Article 43 of the Constitution. In addition, the Bill specifically pronounces the right to free and compulsory basic education and health.
The Bill makes provisions for the roles of the county governments in discharging their mandate towards administration of children’s services. This is in fulfillment of the provisions under Schedule 4 of the Constitution that provides for the functions of the county governments. County governments are mandated among other things, to establish child care facilities, make provision or facilitate the access to pre-primary education, play and recreational centers for children and the development of policies and guidelines that affect children.
To ensure access to child welfare programmes and services at the County level, the Bill makes provisions for the establishment of such child welfare programmes, systems and structures in collaboration with the National Council for Children’s Services.
The Bill will ensure better planning, budgeting, implementation and adequate resource allocation towards child welfare programmes.
It seeks to address abuse and violence against children such as child online exploitation, child marriage, trafficking, radicalisation and sexual exploitation. The Bill will further enhance child rights governance as it provides various opportunities for the voice of the child in all matters that affect them and ensures their participation and inclusion of their voice in policy making. The Bill is an investment in Kenyan children and their full participation in development. Enact the Children Bill Now!
- Pascal is Director of Programmes and Pauline is Advocacy Manager at SOS Children’s Villages, Kenya.