The government’s decision to close children’s homes elicits reactions from children protection managers, who argue the move will exacerbate child marriages.
The managers said the action will defeat the government’s effort to end retrogressive practices such as female genital mutilation and early child marriages among communities in Kajiado County.
There are more than 10 child rescue centres and more than 40 children’s homes in the county, which some of them also act as rescue centres and schools.
A major one is Hope Beyond in Kimana, that serves Kajiado Sub County and which has rescued more than 500 children from forced marriages and FGM practices.
Its director and human rights activist, Dorcus Parit, said her rescue centre does not handle cases of child adoption because all those she rescues are later reconciled with their parents and relatives.
“We have been denied licenses to operate children’s homes already, and this has created a lot of fear among the girls who are in our custody and schools. They fear that if they are released to their tormentors, they will still be circumcised and married off,” Parit said on Monday.
Parit holds the opinion that all the pastoralist countries in Kenya still practice FGM and early childhood marriages and that the government’s decision to stop operations of children rescue centres in those areas will exacerbate those “injurious” practices.
County Coordinator, Children Services in Kajiado, Samwel Masese, said he had not received official communication from Labour CS, Ukur Yatani, on the said intent to close all children’s homes in the country, and hence he would not comment on the same.
“I have no communication on the minister’s move, and therefore I cannot comment on his statement,” Masese said.
Masese, on May 17 sent invitation letters to all county child protection partners to a meeting scheduled to take place at ACK Guest House in Kajiado town on June 6, starting 8 am.
His letter says the ultimate aim of the meeting is to revive/establish county child protection network. The function is expected to be officially opened by the county commissioner, Joshua Nkanatha.
Facilitators for the one-day workshop have been listed as; Lucy Lekumisho, Caroline Munge, Jane Wachira, Masese, Nancy Moguche, Anne Kiteng’e, Margaret Sandiri, Sheila Tunoi, and Cosmas Karera.
Some of the managers of children’s homes in Kajiado who talked to us asked for anonymity for fear of victimisation by the concerned department.
One said she has 25 children under 12 years at her rescue centre/school, who she rescued from some parts of Kajiado West Sub County from forced marriages.
“We are really concerned what will happen to them when released to their wild parents, who have even threatened to burn down our rescue centres,” she said.
Her other fear, she said, are children who have been abused through defilement and the courts granted them custody.
“One big problem in this county is that some communities do not want to involve law enforcement officers in cases of defilement, rape, and even FGM. So if these children are taken away from us, they will be punished by their relatives for involving us in their issues,” she claimed.
Another one who also sought anonymity suggested that the Labour Ministry should set aside rescue centres as special cases.
“Rescue centres are friendly establishments that assist those children who have been abused by their relatives and denied education. The government’s big four agenda is cited in the education of our children. Why is the same government trying to fight with itself?” she asked.
Labour CS, Yatani said last week all homes will be closed to allow those children to be fostered by their parents or relatives.
He said that the ministry and other departments are working on deinstitutionalisation.