Great progress in Kisumu

As part of the Oslo Center’s pilot project in Kisumu, Kenya, we have conducted the second and final round of training workshops for actors working in the field of juvenile justice. Among the participants were representatives from the police, children’s officers, volunteer children’s officers, local administrative chiefs and probation officers. The workshop was a follow-up on the training held in May this year, and focused on the work the participants have done to improve the lives of children who come into contact or conflict with the law in their local communities. Read more about the first workshop here.

Eager participants  

During the first workshop, the participants were divided into five groups based on the sub-counties from which they come from. The groups were encouraged to initiate activities and identify challenges to the implementation of a juvenile justice system in their respective sub-counties in the months between the first and second workshop, i.e. between May and September. As such, Action Plans were developed and the groups all agreed that they wished to hold sensitisation meetings in their local communities, build a strong network of partners working in the field of juvenile justice and establish a system for diversion in the local police stations. The eagerness at which the participants went on with the task was palpable, and it was clear from the outset that the groups would deliver good results.

Impressive work

At the September workshop we heard back from all the groups on the various activities they have conducted since May. Among other things, the groups have established diversion systems and processes, worked closely with the local community to raise awareness on the topic, sensitised police officers and others working with children who have come into contact with the law, strengthened existing institutions (like Child Protection Units (CPU’s) and children’s desks at the police stations) and strengthened the network of actors working in this sector. The number of activities conducted, the impact they have made and the positive feedback the groups have received from their sub-counties are all a testament to the impressive work the groups have managed to do in the space of only a few months.

Challenges

Despite these positive steps, there are still a number of challenges facing the successful implementation of all and more of these activities. The groups all mentioned the lack of resources as a major obstacle to establishing a good diversion system across the county. Moreover, the lack of knowledge on the part of members of local communities is a hindrance in their work. For instance, some parents do not appreciate the benefits of reintegrating their children who have committed crimes but would rather see them receive their punishment, they lack the necessary knowledge about children’s rights, and are unaware that they in fact have other options to deal with the children who have come into conflict with the law. Sensitising the public on children’s rights in general and juvenile justice in particular is therefore of utmost importance for establishing a sustainable and healthy juvenile justice system in Kisumu.

Lessons learned

Among the many things discussed at the workshop, the participants also shared what lessons they have learned from their respective sub-counties. Some groups mentioned the need for more training as a prerequisite to move forward. All groups agreed that there is a great need to establish diversion processes in all sub-counties and that the lack of operational CPU’s may hinder this. Effective diversion leads to restorative justice, and is therefore beneficial to both the offender and the offended. Moreover, for the reintegration of children to be effective, it is essential that one works with the family unit and ensures that the reintegration processes assists the healthy development of the child and his/her surroundings.

Effective diversion will greatly benefit the children who come into contact with the justice system, as well as the society at large. Thus, the Oslo Center is pleased to note the commitment, eagerness and willingness the participants showed in strengthening the juvenile justice system in Kisumu.

Next activity

The Oslo Center is planning to host a roundtable meeting with key actors in the field of juvenile justice in late October.

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