Public participation in matters governance calls for the involvement of all stakeholders including children. The 2nd Children Devolution Conference held under the theme Prosperous Counties for Children offered a platform for children to highlight their key concerns affecting them, learn and be empowered.
The conference is an important platform for children to share thoughts on devolution, for leaders to get valuable feedback from children about performance and how to serve people better. Children are drivers of creativity and innovation ideas, solutions and recommendation on how to involve them in the development.
As part of the areas of concern during the conference, UN Women Kenya in partnership with Vunja Kimya Initiative convened an edutainment session to spark conversation on gender-based violence among children.
Some of the Key issues raised during the conference included the following:
Teenage Pregnancy and Defilement
It is noted that teen pregnancies are prevalent among girls age 13-15, with 70-80% of teenage pregnancies being a result of defilement. County governments have put in place the following measures to curb this including: laws punishing defilement, Youth counseling centers provided by the Ministries of Health and Education where youth can get counseling on a 24/7 basis (4 in Trans-Nzoia); launching of budget for family planning, contraception and condoms, sex education, encouraging parents to teach sex education to their children. Children were educated about the Ministry of Health’s toll-free number (1195) for reporting gender-based violence and the importance of seeking medical attention before going to the police station in cases of sexual offences, due to the need to preserve evidence in cases of sexual offences.
Harmful Social and Cultural Practices:
Cultural practices such as FGM, Early Marriage, Gender-Based Violence interfere with the physical and psychological health of children, especially girls. FGM affects girls in about 22 counties. The Government has an anti-FGM Board which creates awareness on criminality of FGM and ensuring FGM content is in the curriculum. However, there needs to be better implementation of the law.
A concern was raised by one of the girls that provision of contraceptives might communicate the wrong message that sex between minors is acceptable. However, Trans Nzoia County Executive Committee member, Ms. Christine Tanguli clarified that the first step of sex education is abstinence but also provision of contraceptives and what to do when you are defiled. She highlighted the importance of providing sex education which reduces ignorance of girls who may engage in sex in order to counteract negative physical effects of FGM. Empower parents to begin educating their children on sex.
Some of the Key recommendations from the conference included the following:
- Take an active role in providing holistic health care services to children who are victims of sexual violence by: timely prosecution of defilement cases; working with the Ministries of Health and Education to create 24/7 Youth Counselling Centers; and provision of holistic sex education with particular sensitivity to children who have suffered sexual violence and harmful cultural practices.
- Support health initiatives such as School Health Programmes, sanitary pad projects, training of community extension workers and volunteer health workers to spot child abuse and provide healthcare support.
- Work with national government in ensure adherence to minimum standards in hospitals.
- Work in partnership with Department of Gender Affairs, Anti-FGM Board, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education to create awareness on prevention and effects of gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices on children.