Kenya's children have reason to smile the historic Children Bill is the first comprehensive law approved in this east African nation for their protection, giving children some assurance of a brighter, more hopeful future.
Just prior to celebrating 38 years of independence, on December 12, 2001, Kenya's parliament passed the Children Bill. Former President Moi gave his assent to this historic measure during the December festivities the first comprehensive child law in the country.
Compassion Kenya Key Player in Children's Victory
The "Say Yes for Children"* campaign part of the Global Movement for Children, the brainchild of the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) deserves credit for the monumental victory. Compassion Kenya was also instrumental in the campaign's success.
Compassion Kenya director, George Gitau, helped plan the national kickoff event promoting the bill's passage on June 16, 2001 the "Day of the African Child." During the celebration, several sponsored children, who attend the Deliverance Church Child Development Center (KE-352), recited a moving poem titled "African Child." (Additionally, Compassion Kenya staff members, project workers and children all voted for the bill.)
"While declaring child abuse unacceptable," says Gitau, "'Say Yes for Children' is also a call for us to change the world for children with their assistance. It's about listening to what children say, giving them the opportunity to speak up and participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives."
For more information about "Say Yes for Children," see the Global Movement for Children web site at www.GMFC.org.
Key Child Bill Provision Female Child Circumcision Banned
Kenya's former president also announced measures to ban the practice of female child circumcision, aka: female genital mutilation (FGM)*. Part of the Children Bill, the ban now makes it illegal to perpetrate FGM against minors (girls younger than 17). Penalty for this crime is a stiff fine or a minimum one-year prison term.
In some communities where Compassion-assisted projects are administered, female child circumcision is a deeply rooted local custom and a serious concern. Staff workers report that absenteeism, elevated school-dropout rates, and forced, early marriages are common for girls who have undergone this procedure.
Compassion Kenya is engaged in challenging the communities it serves where FGM is common. In these communities, asking parents to commit to their daughters' uninterrupted education (when their girls are registered in the sponsorship program), and educating parents and Compassion-assisted children about FGM's serious health risks, has helped to curb the practice.
Despite such efforts, project workers report instances in which girls submit to circumcision due to intense social pressures. Kenya's ban of FGM provides welcome support to the social workers and Compassion Kenya staff members who face steep challenges- protecting girls from undergoing this painful, risky procedure.
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