What you need to know:
- Activist Eunice Mwashuma attributed the vices to high rates of illiteracy, child neglect and poverty, especially in rural communities.
- To protect the rights of children and minimise abuse cases, a group in Voi has initiated sensitisation programmes targeting caregivers.
Children’s rights activists in Taita Taveta have raised the red flag over the high cases of defilement and teenage pregnancy.
Taita Taveta has been ranked among counties with a high number of cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Cases of child neglect and female genital mutilation are also rife.
According to records from the County Department of Health, 1,273 schoolgirls aged 16-18 got pregnant last year. In the same period, 41 minors aged 10-15 became pregnant.
Speaking during a meeting with stakeholders at St Augustine George Hotel in Voi, Sauti Ya Wanawake official Makrina Mwamburi said hardly a day passes without a defilement case being reported in the county, despite efforts being made to curb the vice.
"Pregnancies among school-age girls are still being reported daily and the data is shocking. I urge all stakeholders to join hands to safeguard the future of our girls," she said.
In an interview, children’s rights activist Eunice Mwashuma attributed the vices to high rates of illiteracy, child neglect and poverty, especially in rural communities.
Ms Mwashuma said awareness campaigns should also focus on parents and caregivers so that they can protect their children from abusers.
"Some parents and caregivers have neglected their roles, thereby giving the perpetrators a chance to prey on children. Some of the cases we have witnessed are results of negligence of the parental responsibilities," she said.
To protect the rights of children and minimise abuse cases, a group in Voi has initiated sensitisation programmes targeting caregivers.
The Voi sub-cluster child protection team, led by Rev Mark Kithokilo, has brought together officers from the children’s department, Compassion International Kenya (a child support organisation), religious leaders, human rights activists, police, the department of Health and child rights activists.
Mr Kithokilo said the team is committed to ending all forms of child abuse, which is on the rise.
"This programme will involve students and caregivers where they are sensitised to child protection. It will involve all the community members in this sub-county," he said.
Meanwhile, the county gender working group has developed a data collection tool to tackle the rising cases of SGBV. The data collected will enable county officers to design and implement effective measures to combat the vice.
And as part of the heightened campaign, Governor Granton Samboja recently signed into law the Child Welfare and Protection Policy to ensure the rights of children are safeguarded.