Religious stakeholders in Vihiga County have been urged to join hands and champion for the rights of children.
Speaking during a consultative workshop bringing together religious leaders from the County at a Mbale hotel, Vihiga Sub County Children Officer Micheal Nanjira pointed out that efforts by the church and other stakeholders would be essential in changing the upward trajectory of violence against children.
From the County Annual Case Load file compiled by the department, Nanjira revealed that out of 717 children cases reported between July and December last year, 378 of which involved neglect while 219 were related to custody.
He pointed out that within the mentioned period, the county witnessed 37 physical abuse cases, 36 child abduction, 35 child truancy, 31 child abandonment, 31 defilement, and 28 cases of parents failing to register their children.
The Officer attributed the trend that has led to increased cases of social ills against children more so neglect, to ignorance as he called for more sensitization of the public.
Noting that many of the neglect and custody cases involved people who were well placed in the society, Nanjira warned that his office would not hesitate to open legal proceedings against such characters.
“Let the Church help us to preach the gospel and remind parents that providing for their children is a constitutional obligation which no one can abscond at all costs,” appealed Nanjira.
“It does not matter whether the father or mother separated or live together as husband and wife. They should both ensure that the needs of the child are catered for,” he said.
He informed that participants that according to the existing Kenyan children laws, a child of 10 years and below is required to stay with the mother in case the parents do not live together, unless it was proved otherwise.
However, at the age of 12 years, Nanjira added that the child is given the right to make the decision who to stay with. “Let children of 10 years and below stay with their mothers. Men can just provide for the kids while they are with their mothers,” he said.
“It can only happen otherwise if it is proved beyond any reasonable doubt that by staying with the mother the interests of the child are interfered with,” he said.
The workshop was sponsored by Anglican Development Services (ADS) Western Region, with an objective of creating networks that will see creation of more policies to safeguard the interests of children while strengthening those already in place.
By Isaiah Nayika