Lawquery Limited in December 2018 partnered with DSW Coast Regional Office to offer a sensitization session on Child Protection to the 61 members of the DSW Community Action Groups, local leaders, community members and local authority figures at M’buyuni Primary School, Mwarakaya Ward, Chonyi Sub County and at Safe Community Center in Mtwapa, both within Kilifi County.
The aim of the forums was to sensitize the community leaders on the issues of human rights, rights of the child and child protection procedures. Lawquery was able to trace the history of Human Rights, the need for and emergence of Child Rights and its application within the different Laws of Kenya, chief being the Constitution and the Children’s Act. The participants were taken through the different forms of rights, examples of child abuse, causes, effects, signs, and what to do when abuse is detected.
On the subject of sexual offences against minors, the participants were encouraged to not only report but to follow up to ensure that prosecution is carried to its logical conclusion. They were encouraged to seek assistance in the event there is need for security through the witness protection program.
The participants were also given the following hotline numbers to call in case they have any complaints or an incident happens in their community;
- FIDA Mombasa in cases involving gender based violence or human rights violations against women – 0724 256 659 or [email protected]
- Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Mombasa for cases where corruption is suspected – 0710768706/072728566 or [email protected]
- Ombudsman Mombasa to report any public officer for misconduct – 0800 221 349 /0731 011 116 or [email protected]
- IPOA Mombasa to report misconduct of members of the Kenya Police Service – 0772 333 000 or [email protected]
- National Child Helpline Service Mombasa – 0800 221 0800 or 0722 116 116
- See more hotlines here.
The participants were happy to have received the information. They appreciated the process of evidence collection, and the court prosecution process in particular. They were interested in knowing how to go about reporting incidences and how to make sure that cases are prosecuted to conclusion. They were able to identify that one of the weaknesses in the community leading to the early pregnancies is socioeconomic, and the failure in parenting. On the way forward, they were encouraged to identify vulnerable groups likely to fall victim to child abuse or GBV, as well as to identify the potential perpetrators, then to raise awareness among both groups of the causes, effects and consequences of child abuse/ GBV.
CHALLENGES IN COMMUNITY CHILD PROTECTION
Among the challenges pointed out by the community is the lack of sufficient evidence to report a case of abuse, until it is too late, for instance when the child is found to be pregnant. They raised concern about some of the groups that had been identified as potential perpetrators (as a general rule, all persons in the community should be viewed as potential perpetrators but certain groups appear to have a pattern, eg. Boda boda riders). Two such groups within the Chonyi community were teachers and administration police officers, for the Mtwapa community the list was wider due to the cosmopolitan nature of the region. They were advised to carry out sensitization for these groups even through Chief’s Barazas by asking a Children’s Officer or Child Protection Officer to train them on Child Rights. There has been considerable success where such sensitizations have been carried out by organizations such as Clear Kenya and Plan International, which ran a similar program for parents, teachers and boda boda riders in Kwale and parts of Kilifi County.
They also pointed that there were a number of cases of early pregnancy as a result of romantic relationships between minors. They raised an issue that the parents in such cases were more inclined to accepting dowry and allowing the girl child to be ‘married off’ rather than taking legal action since both parties at fault are minors. The community was encouraged to refer cases of onset of ill discipline or signs of sexual curiosity to youth/ peer mentors through programs such as the DSW Young Adolescent Program. The graduates of the DSW program have been known to have greater appreciation for education, their rights and their potential. In cases of extreme ill discipline, they can also involve the Children’s department to assess and possibly refer cases to counseling or committal to borstal institutions where need be.
They blamed the Market Days in the area, Disco Matanga and the entertainment spots (hotels, lodges and guest houses) within the region for complacency towards child protection. They were encouraged to organize as a community (through their local administration, DCC and Children’s office) sensitization forums for the owners/ administrators of such joints and establishments.
The children may also benefit from a training on gender roles and financial literacy. We were informed of the practice of the youth who collect wild fruits/ vegetables from the remote areas and walk long distances to the main road/ market where they sell for 100% profit, and most spend it all on risky habits (alcohol and to impress girls). Training on financial literacy will help them to overcome the socio-economic factors that lead them to risky behavior. They will also learn to make money legally, invest wisely and save for their future.
It is expected that as a result of the sensitization, the participants will be better equipped to handle cases of child protection the Chief at the meeting shared contacts of the Volunteer Child Protection Officers in the region, who should be contacted for support in cases of child protection. It is further expected that the participants will themselves encourage any parents involved in cases requiring protection of the child to cooperate with the different agencies to ensure that justice is served.
Emphasis was placed on the community leaders to be involved in public participation on policies and laws affecting the community both at the County and National level.
The community leaders agreed that they will be involved in child protection cases and cooperate with the different agencies such as the children department, investigating police officers, Gender Based Violence Recover Centres and office of the DPP to ensure justice is served.
The DSW Community Action Committee is active and ready to move. Members at the Chonyi Forum were issued with several copies of information booklets explaining how the courts work, and one of their youth mentors was awarded a free copy of the Constitution of Kenya. The Safe Community Resource Center was issued with a few copies of information booklets explaining how the courts work, and one copy of the Constitution for their further reading. Some of the participants at both forums were also awarded for participating with wrist bands urging them to #EndGenderBasedViolence, as part of the Lawquery 2018 #16days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. We were glad to have offered this service as part of our CSR for the year 2018. We look forward to helping communities #KnowYourRights.