The BEAUTY OF MEDIATION

The office of Kenya Children’s Legal Aid Work is often called upon to mediate between parties (mostly parents) disagreeing over the right way to support and take care of children. The party seeking help is asked to deliver summons and on an agreed upon date, they arrive at the offices for mediation.
A couple of things have become clear; the attitude most bear towards mediation is detrimental. Some come with their defensive shields ready, appearing confrontational in response to imagined attacks. Others forget that the mediation process is based on impartiality and expect that the mediator would solely advance their cause. On the other end of the spectrum are persons who refuse to attend altogether, those who arrive woefully late or resort to threats and insults in favour of mature discussions.
Mediation is vouched for by our constitution as an alternative form of dispute resolution, under Article 159. The logic behind that provision is clear. Mediation offers an opportunity for parties to compromise and dispenses with the lengthy court process and delays. These benefits seem to get lost in the shuffle and to ignore it displays great myopia.
Successful mediation entails preparation and calmness. Here are some general pointers; Assess your situation and come up with reasonable requests. Hear the other party out and be willing to compromise. Ultimately, the child is the focus. Stubbornly sticking to one’s opinion helps no one. Spite is not beneficial at all. Keeping in mind, that the mediator’s role is to guide and that the mediation process is not adversarial. It is informal and accords parties a chance to speak freely, explain themselves and even speak to one another. That’s the beauty.

LEAVE THE CHILDREN OUT OF IT!

Children hold adults in high regard. To them, adulthood is the ultimate stage; the ability to do and say as you please, without the pesky interference of parents and teachers. It’s staggering that adults forget the hero status accorded to them by children.
Children always seem to get caught in the middle. Cases of disgruntled fathers throwing out their errant wives along with their children are disappointingly common. Or mothers who wield their children like weapons against their husbands in order to exact vengeance.
Even Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to children; He called on his followers to imitate the purity, simplicity and obedience of children. Children’s rights are hinged on the idea that children are a precious resource worth protecting. At the center of these rights is a belief in their innocence and vulnerability, qualities that they all consistently have despite the hand life has dealt them.
I remember being asked to mind my own business whenever I inquired how much my parents paid for school fees. That retort must have been given because my parents believed that the strain and concerns of daily life should not worry me.
Children should not be depended upon to make a living in their families. Sure helping out is okay, even necessary, but placing the burden of survival on their shoulders is unfair. They should not have to be ashamed when adults they trust abuse them…the weight of such a secret is not theirs to carry.
President Obama, during his speech at the sports complex in Kasarani, shared a poignant proverb, “We have not inherited this land from our forbearers, we have borrowed it from our children.”
We, as adults, as persons that know better, as custodians of their future, as their teachers, as part of the communities they reside in, should exclude children from our fights and instead ensure that they are included in our love and protection.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

 

When I first heard it said that poverty is sexist, I thought, “Here goes more 21st century sound bites phrased in a manner that draws a calculated reaction.” Only after deliberate research and explanation from my more enlightened peers did it make sense. Consider this excerpt from a World Health Organization report, ‘Women’s economic, educational and health status is fundamental to human survival. Women are the main conduits for health knowledge, the main providers of health care and the primary carers of children.’1

During his visit to Kenya, President Obama gave a speech where he noted and denounced the treatment of women as second class citizens. Quoted verbatim, President Obama said, ‘Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allowing them to maximise their potential is doomed to fall behind in a global economy… If you educate girls – they grow up to be moms – and they, because they’re educated, are more likely to produce educated children.’2

Speaking to Kenya’s situation, it is evident that women and mothers bear the burden of raising families and yet are left out of decision and policy making. This is a trend that is true in government, churches and communities, even within families. The testimony of a street child featured in this blog tells of a poor, struggling mother who refused for her children to beg in the streets; even punishing them when they did.3 It shows dignity and bravery in the daunting task of raising children without help from government or the men paternally responsible.

Nine times out of ten, the fate of a mother ties with the fate of her children. If she cannot own property and is consequently thrown out of her home; her children become destitute as well. Women that are denied an education have fewer choices, fall into early marriages and are likely to not value education for their children. On the other hand, women who are given opportunities become mentors and inspire hordes of young girls to dream bigger.

The 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit saw over 100 million shillings collected as investment; ten million of which will go toward setting up Women Entrepreneurship Centers, an American sponsored initiative from which Kenya will benefit from.  Here in Kenya, the government had set up the Uwezo Fund, an interest free fund geared to the economic development of women and youth.

These are positive steps that show an understanding of the path to economic success. Hopefully societal views are on their way to changing. The reality of it all is that an empowered woman affects society in manners other persons cannot. The parallelism between children’s and women’s development cannot be understated; there’s a direct correlation between advancing the rights of women and that of children.

1  http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story032/en/

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000170682/

http://actionchildren.or.ke/1422-my-life-as-a-street-child/

 

 

OF CHILDREN’S RIGHTS AND OBAMA’S VISIT…

When President Barack Obama landed in Kenya on Friday evening, the first person he interacted with was a little girl in white wielding a lovely arrangement of flowers. Standing beside the girl was Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama’s host during his stay in Kenya. After his brisk jog down the steps of Air Force One, Obama bent down to receive the girl with a hug and a welcome smile. She appeared a bit dazed by the attention and importance of the occasion but she returned the embrace and posed for a photo. I bet that encounter will remain with her…she won’t just be Joan Wairimu, but ‘Obama’s girl’ as well.
As details emerged about her, it was interesting to note that she is an orphan under the care of children’s home. Often a neglected and ignored part of society…orphaned and needy children seem to be relegated as a governmental responsibility or mentioned in the context of philanthropy or not for profit organizations.
The government must be commended for choosing Joan. Obama’s visit as the incumbent leader of the free world means all the world’s attention was on Kenya. Everything, from the little to the big, every comment, and every move was scrutinized and laid open. Having sweet Joan, a brilliant Standard One pupil, be the first to greet Obama means the Kenyan community, if only for a while, saw a girl thriving when her misfortune would have had her floundering.
For those familiar with the rights of a child (which ought to be everyone), it further drove home society’s obligation to every child; a reinforced realisation that children, when given a chance, can become beneficial to society. It is important to note that the children’s home where Joan lives, refused to grant the media access to her because her case is ‘sensitive’. They continued to protect her regardless of the benefit media publicity would afford them.
The entire encounter was one of my favourite parts of Obama’s visit and the GES summit. Children are precious and the responsibility of every person.

MY LIFE AS A STREET CHILD

You call me chokora, yet I have a name, Brandson Mburu*. But how can I blame you for not knowing it, you do not see me as equal to you, so how can you fathom the idea that I can actually own a name? I am a street child after all, homeless, rugged, unruly, unworthy of affection, unworthy of your time, to you living in the streets is quite a privilege to me. I am an outcast in your eyes, so why bother acknowledging my presence?

I have not always lived in the streets you know. I was born in a nearby slum, Kiandutu, in Thika. Yes, I was born, meaning I did not magically appear in the streets. I have parents, a mother and a father. Well, they are separated, and I lived with my mother though in abject poverty. Sleeping with no food, lack of clean water, lack of adequate change of clothes, barely a roof over my head as our house was tainted with massive holes is not something I find particularly new while on the streets.

My mother tried her level best to provide for me and my other nine siblings. But out of her meager salary, nothing was ever enough. Unlike the contrary belief that poverty-stricken parents always send their kids to beg in the streets, such was not mine. She abhorred the idea of her children begging in the streets and beat us up when she discovered that we did so.

I know you are wondering how I then ended up here, if my mother constantly advised us against it. I was barely four years old when I came to the streets. My elder Brother, Raymond* introduced me. At such a tender age, I looked up to my elder siblings who to me had life figured all out. He was fourteen years old, big bodied, seemed to possess quite a wit that I could never match up to, so I was gullible.

When we woke up in the morning, he would take me to town and command me to beg for money since I always owed him money. How I came to always owe him money is quite mysterious to me, but he was older so he knew best. I would beg from passersby in the streets, shops, restaurants and any place that I thought had a potential of kakitu( something small).I think the words ‘auntie nipatie kakitu’(auntie give me something small) are well imprinted in my mind as they were my anthem.

Do not look at my preference to beg from ladies as some sort of discrimination from well-wishers. Having been brought up by my mother, I am slightly biased towards ladies as I find them more merciful and philanthropic. However, do not get the impression that all ladies were always willing to lend a helping hand; some were extremely verbally abusive as I have been told severally ‘mbwa, toka hapa, mimi si mamako’ (you dog, get out of here. I am not your mother).

The money I collected belonged to Raymond. At the end of each day, I would obediently give him what I collected and only when he was in a good mood, would he give me a portion of the money. He would then go to watch movies, play PS or wage the money. At four years of age, this kind of life seemed interesting, so I could never understand why my mother was so much against it.

Despite our differences, in the streets we were a family. Always looking out for each other, I guess in this spirit of brotherhood, how could they not introduce me to drugs? Something to take my mind of the worries and troubles of life; which I seemed to quite comprehend at such a tender age. When Raymond gave me my portion of the money, that I had earned, I was quite spoilt for choice at what kinds of drugs I could buy. There were cigarettes, bhang, alcohol, glue, Musi (jet fuel), Kuber( forgive my spelling), pills and many others. What struck me the most is that these drugs were always readily available. We would get them from peddlers, who were not street children, as well as other older kids.

Life on the street is not glamorous. One has to always be weary of police officers and county council officers who would constantly harass us. I cannot count the number of times that I have been brutally beaten up and left to nurse injuries. Without proper medical attention, adequate food, clean water and clean clothes, these wounds would take a very long time to heal. I could not always go running back home as I knew what awaited me; thorough beatings from my mother and my brother always for antagonizing reasons. My mother wanted me home, my brother wanted me on the streets, so eventually, my brother won me over.

I do not despise my mother, I love her very much. In fact if I get a chance to go to school, I want to excel in my studies so that I can support her when get I get a good job. I want to go back home, but I cannot, not after several years on the streets. I am not even sure if she still lives in the same place or was evicted from her shack. This is not a life I would wish upon anyone as being considered unworthy and a nobody can produce massive psychological effects on a child. I have nightmares; I have been told that I have developed ulcers by a good missionary doctor, that I should stop thinking too much.

Tell me, how do I stop thinking and wishing for a different life? I cannot afford that luxury. Cartons are my blankets and Christina Garden is my bed, my home. Glue and gum is my food, and these oversized clothes and a dirty, oily jacket is my wardrobe. I do not know what I did to deserve this. It may appear that I had a choice; my brother or my mother. But we lived no different from how I lived in the street. The only thing I had then was a sense of belonging, and that is what I long for. At eight years of age, I still wondered if this was to be my fate.

I was lucky one day when people from Action for Children in conflict (AFCIC) rescued me from the streets. I now have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to change and a chance to learn and eventually integrate myself in society. I am among the few lucky ones with this opportunity. I have friends and acquaintances’ still living in the streets, not sure what life has in store for them. I vehemently pray to the Almighty to give them a similar chance. For them to know another side of life, to experience their child hood as all children should and that fate be kind to them.

 

(The names used in this passage are fictional, but the story is that of a former street child)

LEGAL AID FOR VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES

Action for Children in Conflict Children legal Aid work programme has partnered with Advocates for the National Legal Aid Programme (NALEAP) Sichangi and Co. Advocates and the Women Challenged to Challenge to create legal awareness on violence against children, child trafficking, sexual abuse, disability, children in conflict situations and the law as pertains to children. Last weekend the team was hosted by the St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Kenol where the Priest in Charge Fr.William, had mobilized members of the church and the community to be sensitized on the above issues, Kenol is a fast growing township with noted incidences of child abuse, gender based violence and the training availed the participants with first hand skills of addressing and reporting of cases affecting children.

In the next one month the team will be back there to carry out a broader campaign going down to the villages and families with education and awareness. In case you would be interested in participating in our next clinic kindly feel free to send us your contacts so that we can send you the details. We will also appreciate support of materials, exercise books, printing of pamphlets including providing a truck for the road show.

Photo 2 photo 3 Photo 4

For more inquiries or likely participation please contact:
Denis Ngugi
Mobile No: 0721551835
Email: ngugidenis@yahoo.com
Or
Nelius Njoki
Mobile No: 0713386079
Email: nellykachu@gmail.com

WHY IS KIDERO EVICTING THE STREET CHILDREN FROM THE STREETS OF NAIROBI?

The directive by the national government in collaboration with Kidero’s government to chase street kids away from the streets has attracted massive criticisms from varying factions throughout the country.
It is a move primarily geared to enhance the security around Nairobi prior to Obama’s visit to the country. This is a bizarre undertaking considering that it has been ordered by the most powerful man in the country.
He ought to know better? Doesn’t he? It is a move that negates on various constitutional requirements specifically article 53 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
Every day, there are numerous crimes in the streets of Nairobi often perpetrated by offenders who actually are not street children. No manifest steps have been taken by the government to try and combat theft in the city in the wake of Obama’s visit to Kenya but the street children have been targeted while they are actually very docile in comparison to other armed gunmen and thugs who are still free and roaming in the streets of our capital.
The following rights accrue to the children premised on Article 53 of the Constitution:
 to a name and nationality from birth;
 to free and compulsory basic education;
 to basic nutrition, shelter and health care;
 to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour;
 to parental care and protection, which includes equal responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child, whether they are married to each other or not; and
 not to be detained, except as a measure of last resort, and when detained, to be held for the shortest appropriate period of time; and separate from adults and in conditions that take account of the child’s sex and age.
 A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.
All of these rights have been infringed in one way or another. The government has been neglecting these children to languish in the streets for years and years. All of a sudden, the government has shown an interest in these kids but unfortunately, it is not for their betterment but to evict them from the streets.
The government should have taken the kids to a children centre where they would be slowly rehabilitated and rescued from the streets instead of being evicted from the city streets to scamper away for safety in some other different city or town.
We cannot mask or hide our problems. The international community already knows about the status of our affairs in the country. The idea of evicting the kids will possibly not even resonate well or conform to certain specified international standards.
Kidero will leave our street children suffering in the streets. If the rights of the child are paramount and if their preservation is primary, then why are they being undermined?
Kidero should know better.

STREET CHILDREN ARE THE HUMAN VERSION OF AN UNEARTHED GEM.

Street children are basically unearthed gems. They wield immense levels of untapped potential. Just like God rejoices when a single soul repents or when one of his stray sheep’s is found, so should our elation be when a street child is rehabilitated, educated and their precocious talents nurtured delicately until they fulfill their God-given potential.
Street children do not have any guardians to whom they can scamper for safety. The question is, can God have abandoned them into the streets where there is no one to whom they can resort for help or scamper for safety?
The answer is no. We usually pass them by along the streets without depicting even the slightest hint of remorse. On the contrary, it is our duty to look after them. Whenever we ignore their plight, we leave them without anybody else to look after them. God can only intervene and aid them through us hence if and when we do not act; we entirely ignore the command of God. It is not an absolute decree from some Supernatural authority; it should be based on our desire to aid them through what God has given us in our lives.
Often, we find that most of the rehabilitated street children have a knack of doing anarchic things. They are very gifted, especially in arts and other abilities vested in them which are never realized because of the lack of sponsorships or resources meant to harness their potential.
We can aid at an individual level or alternatively, we can do so collectively. A small contribution to any child either directly or through various not-for profit organizations could change the life of a child for good.
This would go a long way to ensure that we rescue the street children who could evolve into very important people in the society.
At Action for Children in Conflict, we have an interim care rehabilitation centre where we house street children. They are rescued from the streets and rehabilitated. They later proceed to receive sponsorships hence their lives are immediately transformed. Some have proceeded to various universities and colleges and other have received sponsors such as scholarships under the Wings to Fly Scholarship.
This clearly depicts the tremendous impact that the money we can render can have on such street children. It is true that their behaviours can be a major put off for most willing sponsors but we should be very understanding and try to relate to their lives and all the ordeals that they have encountered or gone through.
A life in the streets without any hope of a future surely rids them of any ambition. This leads them to drugs and other vile tendencies. This emanates from the ancient proclivities or perceptions where street children are deemed to be a danger to the society. On the brighter side, they are not goners; their lives can be changed in a very short time. Kindly make any contribution through our Pay Bill Till Number (56476) and immediately change the life of a street child.

STREET CHILDREN ARE RIGHT-HOLDERS TOO!

What comes to your mind when you see a street child? For many of us, we view them as victims of circumstances or even delinquents. But rarely do we look at them as having rights worth protecting. These are children forced to the streets due to diverse circumstances. Be it poverty, family breakdowns, neglect by parents, their orphaned status or the attractive lavish life of the city. Whatever their reasons are, they find themselves on the streets, either living or working, left to fend for themselves at a tender age.

These children are exposed to high levels of violence and abuse. They are physically, emotionally or sexually abused negatively impacting their development. They have grown up with no or little food to eat, have no parents or if they are in the picture, most of them are living miserable lives in destitution. Most of their friends suffer the same fate. They lack basic necessities, have little or no access to health facilities.

Every child has an inherent right to life thus every government and parent bears the onus of ensuring the survival and development of the child. This includes the safeguarding and promotion of the rights and welfare of the child. Any institution while exercising its powers as conferred to it in relation to the child shall be guided by the principle that the best interests of the child are paramount.

All children irrespective of their economic status, race, religion, language, sex, nationality, social origin or disability have the same rights which should be protected by the government. Our constitution in Article 53 states that each child has a right to free and compulsory basic education, shelter, basic nutrition and shelter. They should be protected from abuse, neglect harmful cultural practices as well as all forms of violence.

These rights pertain to every child including those living or working in the streets. In reality, many of these children in the streets are deprived of these rights. They are subjected to violence, cannot access basic education and lack parents who will look after their welfare. While on the streets, most people tend to forget that these children have rights too. They might be victims of circumstances, but this does not erase the fact that they are entitled to certain rights.

Being treated as a right-holder is the greatest challenge that these children face. If we all recognised them as such, then stereotyping or stigmatization of these kids will reduce by a significant proportion. We will then strive to ensure that their rights are upheld and in the process of which we shall seek for the provision of basic needs for these children. Kenya Children Legal Aid Work (KCLAW) a department within AFCIC is geared towards the safeguarding and promotion of the rights of street children.

The next time you see a street child with rugged clothes and looking hungry, ask yourself what little thing you can do to ensure the protection of that child’s rights.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS COMMITAL TO CIVIL JAIL IN THE ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGEMENTS OR IN THE PROCESS OF EXECUTION?

The process of execution is a very tedious experience coupled with unwilling defendants and conniving lawyers who always look for varying ways to circumvent the orders of the court.
All is meant to preserve the best interests of the child but the desire to wholly and exclusively protect the interests of the child might have had been triggered by some quite emotive aspects although devoid of any wrong or evil machinations.
This implies that the laws passed were totally geared towards protecting the child without taking into consideration other factors that might have culminated into the parents of the child failing to support him or her at that given time.
This has two facets. One is for the parents who were previously supporting the child impeccably but unforeseen situations have made it difficult to support such children albeit temporarily until the impeding matters are brought to a better resolve. The other aspect is where the parent has no resources at all yet they are committed to civil jail for child neglect.
It is the responsibility of the parents to equally provide for the child under the current laws. However, growing up, we never had enough and our parents actually provided for us predicated on what they got on that specific day. We never instituted any suits against our parents for their failure to provide for us on certain isolated occasions.
The lacuna is that nowadays, parents are abusing the current laws to gain undue advantage over the other parent or party who has somehow failed or been unable to provide for the child at a given time. This is resulting into suits where judgements are rendered as against the defaulting parties but at times, it is somewhat unfair and not even geared towards aiding the child but founded or premised on the parents own agenda or other hidden elements that have no nexus with the need or desire to protect the rights of the child.
An example is where the parent has been providing for the child really well and devoid of any omissions. However, some Acts of God or some afflictions such as diseases, fire, tempest or the actual loss of a job and one which was totally unprecedented results into such a parents failure to support the child albeit temporarily. The other parent, often premised on anger or some other sinister motive stemming from their ancient matrimonial difficulty, takes advantage of such a situation to avenge for self by instituting a case against the defaulting parent. It is a matter of vendetta under the disguise of the preservation of the best interest of the child.
Wise and prudent judges will totally dispense with such a case while some will discard such cases. It is a case of the law is as long as the chancellor’s foot.
In these cases, at times the defaulting parent will be committed to civil jail. How can he make good of the Plaintiff’s claim while he is incarcerated and without or with limited movement hence he cannot undertake any activities to try and secure some funds or work to be channeled towards the children’s support and maintenance?
The law seeks to fulfill or attain some well-defined ends, but the committal to civil jail is some lopsided mode of execution. It is narrow and with a single and mechanistic view where the solitary attempt to preserve the best interests of the child might result to the direct opposite.
Often, parents who have been perfect in the discharge of their parental duties are jailed for an indefinite period due to certain things beyond their control such as a random job loss or due to health implications. How is this committal to civil jail in the best interests of the child while the parent is behind bars hence not capable of undertaking any activity that would remedy or improve the present condition of the child?
The second aspect is that where the parent has always never had a job or any means of meeting their parental obligation hence their child neglect is down to poverty and not out of their will or ignorant and total abdication of their parental responsibilities.
If the law seeks to fulfill some end, then changes ought to be made. The child does not benefit from the parent’s committal to civil jail and the parent does not remit and funds or engages in any worthwhile activity while he is being reprimanded. Changes would include certain activities being undertaken behind bars by the parents where the revenue or proceeds are channeled towards the support and maintenance of the children.
Alternatively, the parents who have been previously contributing towards the support of their children should be accorded some allowance to try and recover or secure a job since at times such issues are not easy to anticipate hence such a punishment tends to be too severe and at the same time without necessarily aiding the child.
Committal to civil hail is therefore not the universal solution to all child neglect problems during the execution process. This also includes other judicial awards that do not take into context about the financial capacity of the defaulting parent. A parent or plaintiff can obtain a very good Judgement as against the Defendant who has no any financial muscle but it is all in vain as execution only results to committal to civil jail which does not yield any results whatsoever. Out of experience, it has happening frequently and parents are becoming exceedingly frustrated as the Defendant’s committal to civil jail is becoming futile. Some “defaulters” whether willing or unwilling, whether due to permanent lack or temporary inhibitions or whether founded on good or bad grounds are willing to spend their indefinite time in jail as they cannot take any steps to resolve the children matters or condition while still being in jail. However, any changes have to be in the best interests of the child.
There ought to be a better way of execution. Awards made as against such defaulters also ought to be reasonable. This is because some awards currently being made are very unenforceable hence giving the parents some false sense of hope. Proper steps should also be taken to ensure that parents who want to secure vengeance against the defaulting parents even though they know about their current predicament should be detected early. This is because some parents who initiate suits against others do so for bad reasons as indicated earlier. This is done against capable parents who previously have been very supportive of their children but their present temporary mire or problems have made it difficult to render any help at the given time.
It is all in the best interest of the child and a we pursue the same, why not make it more practical ,feasible and productive for our children other than be overwhelming emotive and come up with utopian laws which seek to fulfill no end and which is prone or susceptible to certain matters that are not justiciable but only geared towards personal pursuits by some parents.