UN Agency Targets Kenya’s Presidential Candidates In Campaign For Children’s Rights
Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
|Olivia Yambi, UNICEF Kenya Country Representative|
NAIROBI, (IRIN) – With only a month to Kenya’s general election, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is asking the country’s citizens to support politicians who will respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights.
Under its campaign, Look Out For Leaders Who Look Out for Children, UNICEF Kenya has obtained pledges from the three leading presidential candidates to invest in quality education, child survival and social protection for vulnerable children should they win the election.
“Since children do not vote, we launched the campaign to get the aspirants to commit themselves to children’s rights and to inform Kenyans that when they cast their votes, they should look out for those leaders who will look out for children,” Olivia Yambi, UNICEF country representative for Kenya, told IRIN on 21 November.
Yambi said Kenya would be better prepared to handle any emergency situation if issues of child health, education and protection were adequately addressed.
“If there was a humanitarian crisis, say in the northern or northeastern part of the country, which are at times affected by disaster, we’d be better off dealing with it if we had in place an efficient health service and the children in these areas could access quality education and be better protected,” she said. “We believe that if people were better educated, this would contribute to a more peaceful and conflict-free society.”
Presidential aspirants Kalonzo Musyoka of the Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-Kenya), Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, who is contesting the presidency on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket, personally signed their commitment to UNICEF’s campaign.
“We are standing up for the children of Kenya, the children of East Africa and the children of the world,” Musyoka told IRIN on 20 November in a brief read by his press secretary, Kaplich Barsito.
Musyoka said: “No child under five years should be allowed to die of preventable diseases; I’ll personally lobby my colleagues in the 10th Parliament to endorse policies that favour and promote the interests of the child.”
Esther Passaris, an official in the ODM communications secretariat, said Odinga signed up to the UNICEF campaign because he is dedicated to all-round child protection measures.
“ODM is committed to solving issues affecting the girl child and the boy child, it is keen on their protection, how they live, their quality of life, their education, health and general well-being,” Passaris said. “These children will ultimately grow into adults, ODM wants them to have a life that is all-inclusive and that accords them their dignity.”
Ngari Gituku, the press secretary for Kibaki Tena, a lobby for the president’s re-election, said: “The Party of National Unity recognises that the destiny of Kenya as a nation depends on how well we shall endeavour to uphold the rights of the child, both girl and boy. We therefore have put in place deliberate measures to inspire the utmost surrender value from the potential inherent in every Kenyan child irrespective of her or his ethnic, social, economic or religious background.”
The campaign will seek similar pledges from all parliamentary and civic aspirants when the Electoral Commission of Kenya provides a fully comprehensive list of the confirmed candidates.
It draws on the achievements of a similar campaign in 2002, in which some 350 parliamentary aspirants signed a pledge to undertake 12 specific actions on behalf of orphans and other vulnerable children (OVCs). Yambi said more than 100 of these aspirants made it to parliament and that most of them followed through on the pledge.
“A parliamentary committee on orphans and vulnerable children was formed, an OVC Bill has been drafted and the Sexual Offences Act was passed,” Yambi said. “In fact Kenya has done pretty well in terms of legislation, the test would now be in implementation and monitoring of compliance to these laws.”
In July 1990, Kenya became the 20th state to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It enacted the Children’s Act in 2001 and created the National Council for Children’s Services.