Protect me, shield me and nurture me

By Kelvin Opere and Najma Mahat

In recent times, news and media outlets have been replete with heart-breaking stories of abuse and violence against the girlchild. From the young girl in Narok who was married off at 7 years, mutilated at a young age, and taken by her husband to deliver a child at 10. In Kandara sub- County, Murang’a County a father is in custody after he allegedly impregnated his two daughters with the knowledge of his wife. These stories are part of the great statistic. The undeniable violence meted against the girl child is open.

The Children Act outlines the responsibilities of the government, parents, and other caregivers to ensure that children are safe, healthy, and able to reach their full potential. The Act includes provisions for child protection, adoption, foster care, and juvenile justice and established various institutions to implement and enforce these laws, including the Children’s Department and the National Council for Children’s Services. Kenya has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets out a range of rights for children, including the right to education, health care, and protection from abuse and exploitation. The Preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child reads in part:

Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding”.

This poetic citation of the law places an obligation on society to provide a harmonious and friendly environment for the growth of the child, the girl child in this case. Article 19(1) of this Convention mandates States Parties to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. However, despite the existence of laws and concerted efforts, child rights violations, including child labor, child marriage, and sexual abuse, remain a problem in Kenya, and there is ongoing work to address these issues and better protect the rights of children.

To adequately protect the girl child, we as citizens need to act to protect children from abuse, neglect, and exploitation and to promote their welfare. If you suspect a child is being subjected to abuse, here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Report the abuse to the authorities: Contact the police or the Department of Children Services in your area. They will investigate the situation and take appropriate action.
  2. Provide support to the child: If you are able, offer the child emotional support and reassurance that they are not alone.
  3. Speak out against the abuse: Raise awareness of the issue and advocate for change in your community.

It is important to remember that abuse of any kind is never acceptable and that everyone has a responsibility to protect children. To the girl child, may we protect them, shield them and nurture them.

Kelvin Opere is an Amnesty International Kenya member, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya with a keen interest in human rights and Najma Mahat is a human rights lawyer who is passionate about gender and equality.