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A Kenyan Community Fights Against Child Neglect

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By Maureen Siele, ChildFund Kenya
Posted on 2/21/2017
A Kenyan Community Fights Against Child Neglect

Gideon, 10, Florence, 9, Elisha, 12, and Grace, 13

Grace, 13, Elisha, 12, Gideon, 10, and Florence, 9, are siblings living in Nairobi, Kenya’s Lunga Lunga slums. Two years ago, their father, John, refused to take them to school, so they had to drop out. He said he did not see any value in education. John sent the children and their mother, Catherine, back to their rural home in Embu County, where they would spend the whole day doing farmwork and attending to other chores. And he refused to send home any money to support them.

But other community members had participated in ChildFund’s programs on children’s rights, including education and safety. “We have sensitized community members in this slum on child protection issues such as child labor and neglect, and on child rights like education and health,” says Esther, a volunteer children’s officer working in the area. “We have entrenched in them a sense of responsibility so that whenever they see an injustice happening to a child, they feel obliged to report.” So when some of the family’s neighbors discovered that the children had been pulled out of school and sent away to work, they alerted the Local Area Advisory Committee on Child Protection.

When the committee heard of Catherine’s and her children’s situation, they paid John a visit, trying to understand why he had neglected his family. They also explained to him the importance of education and instructed him to bring his family back to the city as soon as possible so that the children could continue their studies, or else he would arrested. John agreed to the committee’s demands.

“Out of the blue, my husband called and asked that we board the next bus to the city,” says Catherine. “He said that he was ready to take care of his children and to take them back to school. He also sent money for transport. I was overjoyed! I owe my husband’s change of heart to the committee, which worked tirelessly to ensure that my children were not neglected and that they went to school.

“They have not only helped us but have also helped other families,” she adds. “If we continue supporting each other as members of the same community, then we can succeed in bringing up a healthy and educated generation.”

When they arrived in Nairobi, with the support of ChildFund Kenya and other partners, the children were enrolled in primary school. Today, John supports his family by providing food, shelter, clothing and money for school fees. The children attend school regularly and perform well in their studies. Even after missing out on school for a whole year, Florence is top of her class.

“I have no words for how I felt on my first day back to school,” says Florence. “I had given up on life, but on that day, I felt that I could accomplish anything that I wanted. It gave me hope that all would be well. I want to be a police officer when I finish school.”

“We recognize that communities, families and children themselves are an integral part of any effective child protection system,” says Mwathe, a village elder who is also a member of the committee. “We empower them to monitor issues and advocate for change without fear.”

On average, the committee handles up to 90 cases every month, ranging from child abuse, neglect, child labor, trafficking, sexual exploitation, early marriage and violence. The committee links and refers these cases to relevant departments such as health and law enforcement when necessary.

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