The protection of children is crucial to their survival, health, and wellbeing. Unfortunately, millions of children are exploited, abused and are victims of violence. Every day, children are forced to work on farms, on the streets, as prostitutes, casual workers or domestic help. Abuse, exploitation and violence – disgraceful as they are – usually occur in private. Only time reveals the consequences: children uneducated, unhealthy and impoverished.
Children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in Kenya are at greater risk of exploitation, abuse and neglect, and are therefore in need of special protection. Their rights to health, education, nutrition and leisure are compromised and they become vulnerable to exploitation in their efforts to survive without any adult care. Thus, concerted efforts must be made towards realizing the rights of orphans. There is need for support and safety nets for orphans that will ensure their rights are protected and minimize their exposure to discrimination and stigma.
The Child Protection Programme’s main goal is to contribute to the protection of all children from violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and HIV/AIDS by supporting efforts to create social protection for the most vulnerable children, including social assistance and provision of services to prevent and support at risk children, supported by a well functioning juvenile justice system. This is being done through the following four results areas: (i) justice for children; (ii) prevention and response to violence and exploitation of children, including in emergencies; (iii) a national social protection system in place for the most vulnerable children; and (iv) prevention of HIV infection among children and youth.
This programme contributes to the UNDAF outcomes that aim to increase access to basic social services (outcome 1), improve governance (outcome 2), mitigate the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS (outcome 3), enhance capacity to design, implement, monitor and evaluate programs (outcome 4), and improve food security at household and community level (outcome 12). It contributes to Millennium Development Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS; Halt by 2015 and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In responding to the four results areas, the Child Protection Programme focuses on ensuring that the justice system addresses the special needs of children who come into contact with the justice system, whether as victims, witnesses or as offenders. This includes working with police, as the first point of contact for children, to ensure that they provide the relevant support and protection for children and that whenever possible they divert children from the justice system. The programme supports national level legislative and policy work that contributes to strengthening the protective environment for children.
The Child Protection Programme also supports the provision of protective services for children. This is done through building the capacity of police, health service providers and social workers while linking them up with providers of legal aid, shelter and care. It also includes building the capacity of the Area Advisory Councils (AACs) and Provincial and District Children’s Officers to monitor, report, and refer cases of violence and exploitation. The programme ensures that protective services are also in place for children during emergencies in line with UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children. This includes registration, tracing and family reunification of separated children; provision of psychosocial support for children; monitoring and reporting cases, and provision of treatment for victims of violence and exploitation of children; and ensuring children’s access to safe spaces.
The programme supports the development and implementation of a national social protection system, which includes a cash transfer programme for the most vulnerable children; access of these children to services, including protective services; and improved standards for adoption, foster care and community based care of children.
The programme also supports partners to equip children and youth to better protect themselves from HIV infections. This includes supporting the use of sports combined with life skills training to empower children and youth, especially girls, to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. This is complemented with support to the establishment of Youth Friendly Centers, where youth can access resources, voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), and referral for further services.
Key strategies for this programme include coordinating with other key sectors to ensure that the most vulnerable children are accessing basic social services, while ensuring that all children suffering from abuse, violence or exploitation have access to protective services. Given that poverty is a key contributing factor to child rights violations, the development of a social protection network through a non-contributory cash transfer to the families of the most vulnerable children is an important preventive strategy.
Strengthening the protective environment for children at the community level is also critical in order to ensure adequate support and care of children, and monitoring and reporting of child rights violations. District and community-based initiatives are complemented by support to the strengthening of national level capacity to address child protection. This includes ensuring that the legal and policy framework is in place to protect children; that the laws and policies are being enforced; and that key duty bearers have the knowledge, understanding, commitment, skills and resources to do their jobs effectively. It is expected that results achieved and lessons learned at district and community level will feed back up to national level, for scaling up and sustainability through institutionalization. Given UNICEF’s overall limited resources and coverage, advocacy for increased budget allocation and for policy and legal reform remains essential for ensuring scaling up and sustainability of child protection initiatives.