The 2019 Violence Against Children (VAC) Survey results established that violence against children is still prevalent. Through the State Department of Social Protection – Department of Children Services, the Government has developed a National Prevention and Response Plan (2019-2023) to reduce VAC prevalence by 40%. Kenya has committed to working towards ending all forms of violence against children by becoming a pathfinding country with the End Violence Partnership.
Partisan to this the Kenyan Government developed the tool kit to explicate the need to protect young children, including children in conflict with the law.
The courts hold a will power and thus play a critical role in determining the fate of most children who have experienced violence and those in conflict with the law, making it a fundamental stakeholder towards expediating legal services that affect the general outlook on GBV matters. Cognizant of this fact, the Dhibiti Project, through the Kerugoya Court Users Committee, conducted training to accelerate the need to end the stigma faced by GBV survivors.
During the training held in January 2023, the court users noted that the amendment of the Children Act in 2022, which gave effect to article 53 of the constitution, introduced better legal services that should have been included in the Children Act 2001. Additionally, the Act made provisions for children’s rights, parental responsibility, foster, and placement for the care and protection of children and children in conflict with the law. The Act also sought to regulate the services children access in every county. During the training, Justice Richard Mwongo stated, “It is a natural desire for every citizen to be treated justly and the judiciary treats this matter with a lot of seriousness,” as he condemned the punitive measures and silence most communities use to address GBV matters surrounding children.
Justice Richard Mwongo addressed the Kerugoya Court Users Committee during the training.
With the new Children Act in place, every child in conflict with the law and the children survivors against violence will be accorded the appropriate services as the constitution provides. The plan is based on the premise that violence against children is never justifiable, nor is it inevitable; and if its underlying causes are identified and addressed, violence against children is entirely preventable. Moreover, holistic care for child survivors of violence is equally critical for their recovery and development.
During the meeting, Hon. Grace Kirugumi noted that the training was a platform to promote the participation of the justice sector in a consultative approach when dealing with children. Hence the need to partner with the education sector to ensure children in school are also protected from GBV. “Physical pain is not necessarily equal to discipline. There are other positive ways of disciplining our children which do not involve recurring trauma to our children,” noted Ann Ngunjiri, Senior Technical Advisor, GBV Program, LVCT Health.
Dhibiti Project seeks to support the Court Users who play a critical role in Kirinyaga County by identifying acute GBV cases, linking survivors to receiving the needed aid, and helping take control of the HIV epidemic in Kirinyaga County. LVCT Health implements the GBV program with support from CDC in Kenya through The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to empower vulnerable children to live an HIV-free life.
Story and Photography by Rebecca Musanga