HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS

Day of the African child gaining currency

Millions of slum children are consigned to a life of hardship and deprivation, trapped in a vicious poverty cycle

In Summary

• In most of Nairobi slums, poverty, insecurity, sexual violence and prevalent injustice interact to make life as rough as it can get.

• Those of us with the means to make a difference in children’s lives should place them at the heart of policymaking.

Schoolchildren follow proceedings at a World Children's Day event.
Schoolchildren follow proceedings at a World Children's Day event.
Image: FILE

The International Day of the African Child is finally receiving the attention it deserves in Kenya. From Friday, June 14 through the weekend, numerous events were held around the country to mark the day, which falls on June 16 every year.

Even though the continental campaign had set one theme, Humanitarian Action In Africa, Children’s Rights First, local education campaigners and children rights activists tailored the theme to meet Kenyan contexts, which helped highlight the impact of humanitarian crises on children even more powerfully.

By far the most impactful events were held in Nairobi slums, where campaigners organised plays, musical concerts and workshops to sensitise communities on the plight of vulnerable children. At two events I attended, in Baba Dogo and Korogocho, there was an outpouring of grassroots energy. Young and old, the residents came out to showcase the best of the slums.

In most of the Nairobi slums, poverty, insecurity, sexual violence and prevalent injustice interact to make life as rough as it can get. Millions of slum children are consigned to a life of hardship and deprivation, trapped in a vicious poverty cycle that provides them decrepit schools, insecure neighbourhoods and a disastrous criminal justice system.

To have a decent shot at life, slum children require awesome self-belief, character and mentoring to bridge the opportunity gap between them and their peers from stable families.

To have a decent shot at life, slum children require awesome self-belief, character and mentoring to bridge the opportunity gap between them and their peers from stable families.

The days’ activities inspired the youth to look beyond their limiting conditions and aim higher in their education and life generally. Using the slogan Not My Story, the participants pushed aside the narrative of their disadvantaged backgrounds to reach their deserved spaces in a competitive world.

National and county government officials, community organisers, law enforcers, NGO leaders and teachers were at hand to learn from one another and find new ways to cooperate in broadening the opportunities available to slum children.

The private sector was not left behind, with a corporate sponsor, the Chinese telecoms firm Infinix, supporting a themed play by children from Emmanuel Children’s Home, Kayole, at the University of Nairobi.

The media took keener interest too, with all the main houses reporting on the events or carrying editorials on the relevance of the Day of the African Child. This despite the lack of participation by senior government officials, who have usually marshalled media coverage of past events.

That this day is gaining currency reflects the revitalised consciousness by Kenyans that links the plight of our children to the multifaceted forces undergirding poverty and inequality.

But while the Day of the African Child is celebrated once a year, every day is the day of the African children; those of us with the means to make a difference in children’s lives should place them at the heart of policymaking.

National Coordinator of IDAY-Kenya