The Garissa Deputy County Commissioner (DCC), Samuel Njuguna has warned parents against marrying off their underage girls.
Speaking at the Garissa primary school during this year’s celebrations to mark the Day of the African Child, Njuguna said the laws and other statutes protecting the girl child are clear and specifies appropriate actions on perpetrators of such vices.
“There are several social practices that are dragging us behind, and one of them is early marriages among teenage girls. This is a concern to us as a government and we shall fight the vice,” Njuguna said.
“The constitution is clear on the age a girl can be married off. Any cultural practice that contravenes the law is punishable,” he added.
The administrator said the girl child should be given the opportunity to pursue their careers and ‘if they are to be married off, they should be at least mature enough’.
On Female Genital Mutilation, the administrator said the government will act firmly on the perpetrators of the practice, and especially on parents who allow their girls to undergo the cut.
Njuguna also asked the chiefs to be on the lookout for individuals violating children’s rights and resorting to settling them through ‘Maslah’, Somali alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
Nominated MCA, Fatuma Abdi said the assembly had already passed a motion on the creation of a gender based violence desk at the assembly, where women and young girls can report rape, defilement and other forms of violations against them.
The desk will contact the relevant government departments such as children, referral hospitals and the police to address the matter to a logical conclusion.
“The desk will give women who shy away from police stations, children department or who unwilling to divulge personal information to such authorities,” Fatuma said.
The desk will be managed by a trained local social worker who will report to women MCAs so as to encourage women to feel free and report violation committed against them.
“The executive has also committed itself to support the initiative by allocating more funds towards the programme,” she added.
The Garissa County Children Coordinator, Mohamed Hussein said cases of parental neglect, child labour, incest and defilement are on the rise, and were posing a great danger to the wellbeing of children in the area.
“The biggest challenge we are fighting as a department is parental neglect where parents have failed or intentionally refused to meet their children’s basic needs,” he said.
This year’s African Child celebrations theme is ‘leave no child behind for African’s development’.
By Jacob Songok