Songs, skits and poems filled the air in Kenya on 16 June to mark the Day of the African Child, drawing attention to the need to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices affecting children.
In Kilifi county primary and secondary schools celebrated the occasion by highlighting the collective responsibility of the community to look at key issues, such as girls’ right to education.
In Kenya, parents often prioritise education for their sons over their daughters and girls, who are often perceived as a form of wealth, are married off at a tender age in exchange for money. This happens particularly when funds are needed to pay the school fees for a son to complete or further his education.
Girls at risk of HIV due to early marriages
The Day of the African Child was an opportunity for governments, international organisations and communities to focus on their on-going commitments towards improving the plight of marginalised and vulnerable children.
At Katikirieni primary school in Chonyi district, senior resident magistrate from Kilifi Court Dennis Kinaro spoke about child rights. He said: “The Children’s Act 2011 passed by the Kenyan Government states that a child has a right to citizenship, education and religion among others.”
Lack of access to education and being forced into early marriages are just two of the issues young girls face. As a result some feel they have no option but to run away from home often getting involved in activities that put them at risk, such as hooking up with motorcycle riders called ‘bodabodas’ who give them money in exchange for sexual activities. With this comes an increased risk of being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Some girls also get frustrated and begin injecting drugs which can also expose them to HIV.
World Day Against Child Labour
The issue of social practices that put children at risk was also under the spotlight during World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June. The focus was on encouraging parents to support their children in getting an education, which is key to reducing the risk of children getting involved in activities such as injecting drugs and sex work and being exposed to HIV.
Paul Mwandikwa, regional coordinator for the International Labour Organization, urged parents to come together to stop child labour and said that the organisation is working closely with the government to ensure each and every child gets an education from a young age.
Mkongani primary school celebrated the day with the theme ‘say no to child labour’. Daniel Mbogo the children’s officer for Ganze district said: “Parents have an important role to play in ending child labour by taking their children to school instead of allowing them to work to help support the family. Children must be encouraged to gain skills that will help them build a stronger future.”
- School boys reenact engaging in drug use at school to raise awareness of social issues
- A school girl begs her mother to allow the father to continue paying for her schooling in a school drama skit
- Kilifi resident magistrate Dennis Kinaro addressing the community