No African country is immune to the scourge of violence against children. African children and young people continue to suffer physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
Armed conflicts, violent extremism and the Covid-19 pandemic have created a perfect environment for violence on children to flourish. The scale of the violence in Africa is getting worse.
The East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights) welcomes the fact that Kenya is one of 12 African “pathfinding” countries recognised by the Global Partnership for their commitment to raising awareness, stimulating leadership, galvanising action and establishing national violence prevention standards. But more needs to be done.
This week, senior government officials and civil society representatives from more than 30 African countries have been gathering in Addis Ababa for the Pan-African Learning Symposium on Violence Prevention, hosted by the African Partnership to End Violence against Children.
According to the African Child Policy Forum, at least six in 10 boys and half of girls in Africa experience physical abuse; one in four children suffers sexual violence; three million girls are at risk of FGM every year; 40 per cent of boys in residential care institutions suffer physical violence; and sub-Sahara has the highest rate of child trafficking in the world.
Kenya must do more to tackle the causes of violence against children. It must also pay greater attention to emerging challenges caused by armed conflict, violent extremism and the pandemic.
EACHRights is aware of the financial constraints African governments continue to endure in the post-pandemic economic slowdown. But we cannot allow the small gains made in tackling violence against children over the past 30 years to be wiped out by failure to invest in social and child protection programmes.
Violence on children is directly related to poor education, school dropout, job prospects and long-term poor health. Violence prevention schemes funded by global donors and NGOs are important. However, the problem can only be eradicated by Africans themselves.
International efforts to tackle violence against African children often fail to acknowledge indigenous systems of child protection which could be promoted and replicated across the continent.
It is 30 years since the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was adopted. Most African governments, including Kenya, are signatories to the African Children’s Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Whilst we applaud Kenya’s participation in the Addis Ababa forum and its commitment as a “pathfinder”, it is clear financial capacity and political will are in short supply. EACHRights calls on governments, the AU and regional blocs to scale up investment in initiatives to end violence on children. Eradicating this stain on our collective conscience is one of the most important priorities of our time.
Dr Oloo is CEO, EACHRights; [email protected]