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Protected Beginnings: Joy in Kenya

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > Protected Beginnings: Joy in Kenya
By Maureen Siele, ChildFund Kenya
Posted on 2/21/2017

Joy, 3, stands outside her home in the Viwandani slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

In the heart of the sprawling Viwandani slums in Nairobi lives Joy, a bubbly 3-year-old girl, with her mother, father and three siblings. Were it not for the interventions of the Local Area Advisory Committee on Child Protection, Joy might not be alive today.

Four years ago, when her mother, Peninah, was pregnant with Joy, her husband, Elijah, started beating her. “He would come home late and drunk, and whenever I asked him where he had been or told him to stop drinking, he would beat me up mercilessly,” Peninah says. He would slap and kick me as the children watched in shock. One day, when I was five months pregnant, he kicked me so hard in the stomach, I started bleeding. My neighbors had to rush me to hospital. He also refused to buy any food and clothes for us.”

The neighbors, seeing the harm and pain being inflicted upon Peninah, her unborn child and her other children, reported the issue to the Local Area Advisory Committee. Supported by ChildFund Kenya, this community-based child protection group includes 18 village elders, the area chief and District Children’s Officer. The group’s mandate is to create a culture where violence against children is not tolerated, and children’s rights are respected in accordance with the law. The group teaches community members about child protection issues, including identifying child protection cases; knowing when, how and where to report them; and following up.

When the committee received the report, they summoned Elijah and asked him to explain his actions. “We talked to him about the physical and psychological harm he was causing to his wife, the unborn child and his other children,” says Susan, a volunteer children’s officer. “We also contacted the police, and he was jailed for six months. After his release, he also attended various counseling sessions through the committee. We also counseled his wife and children. A few months later, a healthy baby girl named Joy was born. Today she is a happy little girl, and her father Elijah is a reformed man.”

“I am truly thankful to this committee for their help,” says Peninah. “They have made us our brothers’, sisters’ and children’s keepers. We now understand the importance of being a united community that protects its children from harm and violence. Thanks to them, my daughter is alive and well, and my family is happy and we live in peace.”

ChildFund Kenya through its local partner, Mukuru Child Wellness Center, has built the capacity of this local committee, chaired by the area chief, to recognize, prevent and respond to threats to children’s well-being. Together, these organizations work toward a shared understanding of harm to children by providing the community-based child protection groups with the skills they need to tackle the issue at its roots rather than merely responding to cases. The group has handled over 4,000 cases since it was formed in 2012, with up to five cases being reported every day.