Raising Awareness Among Youth Politicians

In collaboration with the National Democratic Institute in Kenya, the Oslo Center visited Kenya in June in order to organise a workshop for the 28 youth politicians comprising the Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF). The IPYF is, as its name suggests, a forum for cross-party political discussions. These youth politicians have been nominated by their parties, representing 7 different political parties. Some of the delegates will also run for elections in 2013, and may thus stand good chances of winning a seat in their county assembly.

Capacity Building

The main purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness on children’s rights, as well as to challenge the youth politicians to be more child-friendly in their future political work. Two representatives from the civil society working in the field of children’s rights were invited to speak to the group. Professor Wanyama, chair of the NGO-CRC (Child Right’s Committee), focused on national and international legislation pertaining to children, as well as how the youth politicians could contribute to the work being done on child rights in Kenya.

Gilbert Ngaira from the Kenya Alliance for the Advancement of Children (KAACR) held a presentation where he challenged the youth politicians to adopt a rights-based approach rather than a needs-based approach when dealing child issues. Furthermore, Ngaira emphasised the necessity of having a solid “network of mentors”, as well as the importance of dealing with problems both at the national level as well as at grassroots level.

On the second day of the workshop, the youth politicians were asked to identify 5 political issues they wished to focus on in their future work as IPYF. Among these was the right to education.

Child Rights Violated

There is no doubt that there are serious challenges relating to children and the protection of their rights in Kenya. In most cases the legislation and policies are in place, however, the main challenge concerns the implementation of these laws. Kenya has ratified both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990, and has incorporated both of these into national law through the Children Act 2001.

Under the 2010 Constitution, article 53, one now finds a so-called “mini bill of rights” for children, establishing in national law internationally recognized principles such as the best interest of the child and the non-discrimination principle. Moreover, article 53 gives children a constitutional right to education, as well as protection from any form of violence or maltreatment, and unlawful and arbitrary detention. Sadly, though, such safeguards are not always respected, and the rights of children are often being violated. In its Concluding Observations from 2007, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child criticized the fact that children, and especially street children, are often arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, and in some cases also victims of abuse and maltreatment. Furthermore, there are still many children who do not attend school. Despite the fact that primary education is free in Kenya, the costs of purchasing books and school uniforms are such that many families cannot afford them. These are illustrative examples of the existing gaps between the strong legislative safeguards on the one hand, and the weak implementation on the other.

The importance of awareness-raising and capacity-building on the topic of children’s rights for future politicians cannot be overstated.  Getting the youth politicians engaged, motivated and eager to work towards realising the rights for all children is thus an important step in the right direction.

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