News / Africa

Violence Against Kenyan Children Excessive, UNICEF Report Finds

A girl walks along a street in the sprawling Kibera slum, in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 26, 2011.
A girl walks along a street in the sprawling Kibera slum, in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 26, 2011.
Jill Craig
Officials say violence against children in Kenya is exceedingly and unacceptably high, with the United Nations estimating as many as 10 percent of girls and five percent of boys have experienced at least one episode of sexual violence in the previous 12 months.

The recently-released UNICEF report on violence against children in Kenya says that almost half of the girls who suffered sexual abuse in the year prior to the survey were molested while traveling on foot.


Madhavi Ashok, the deputy representative of UNICEF Kenya, notes that many of these children are particularly vulnerable in their own communities. 

“When you get very comfortable in your environment, and you know that the community is the best place to protect you, girls do get comfortable walking to and from school" Ashok explained. "So the question arises then, that you meet somebody on the way that you will least expect that they would be assaulting you or causing this kind of harm to you, is when that happens. So the girls are themselves totally unsuspecting of what is going to happen to them."
As the executive director of the Gender Violence Recovery Center at the Nairobi Women’s hospital, Wangechi Grace works with victims of sexual violence on a daily basis. She says that UNICEF’s conclusions accurately reflect what she sees at the clinic. 

“It’s because children will walk, and they’re playing, and laughing and telling stories as they walk home casually from school," she explained. "And of course, the environment, our roads - our environment is not safe. So perpetrators normally are people who know these children. They’ll watch them, they’ll know their timings. They’ll know how they operate. And they’ll even know how to entice them.”


Grace says that people in Nairobi lead "fast lives", where parents of all income brackets often leave the home before 6:00 am and return later in the evening, in order to provide for their families. As a result, children are left to their own devices, which she says leaves them more vulnerable to abuse.
“And if you go to the streets, and I’m talking of any street in Nairobi today, and especially at the estates [low income areas]…and stand by any road, you’ll be amazed at the number of children you will find walking alone,” she noted.
And it’s not just happening in Nairobi. Grace says that her team has also carried out assessments of this issue in rural areas of Kenya. 

“A lot of communities confirmed that sexual violence was taking place as children and women go to look for water, as they go to look for firewood, as they go to queue for food,” she stated.


A mother walks beside her mentally disabled 14-year-old daughter who was raped by a neighbor in Kabazi, Kenya, August 24, 2010.A mother walks beside her mentally disabled 14-year-old daughter who was raped by a neighbor in Kabazi, Kenya, August 24, 2010.
A mother walks beside her mentally disabled 14-year-old daughter who was raped by a neighbor in Kabazi, Kenya, August 24, 2010.
A mother walks beside her mentally disabled 14-year-old daughter who was raped by a neighbor in Kabazi, Kenya, August 24, 2010.
The ramifications for the girl are significant, including social stigma and the risk of pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted illnesses.  It may even mean an end to a girl’s education.  UNICEF’s Ashok explains that parents often will remove their daughters from school in an attempt to protect them from harm.
“Definitely the mentality of any parent is that they do not want their child to go through this experience. So as the girl reaches puberty, they do watch the environment and if they feel the community is unsafe or the school is unsafe, they are going to stop the girl from going to school," Ashok explained. "Especially in very, very culturally traditional societies where they have had a culture of protection.”


But parents may soon have more options to keep their daughters safe.  Ahmed Hussein, the director of children’s services, in the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Development, says the Kenyan government contributed to the UNICEF report and is committed to stopping violence against children.
“And as a country, we have already developed the framework for the national child protection system. And we are setting up child protection centers in the counties, to respond to violence and abuse against children. It’s a commitment from the government of Kenya that we are going to implement the recommendations contained in that report. And our minister gave a tacit commitment towards that,” said Hussein.
The head of Nairobi’s Gender Violence Recovery Center says last year 41 percent of their patients were children - underscoring the need for the government to take action as soon as promised.

You May Like

Russia's 'V-Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

Critics say Soviet-style display of power, nationalism don't recognize tragic scars of warfare that still influence politics, fighting in Ukraine More

Tensions Simmer in Hong Kong in Lead Up to Vote

Many Hong Kong citizen say if the reform plan will be a step back for the pro-democracy movement if passed More

Multimedia Obama Calls for New Commitment to Help Minority Youths Succeed

President introduces My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, foundation supporting better education and job prospects More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: brothers from: United States
December 26, 2012 4:06 PM
It is sad to read that at this day in time our children are still being treated this way.So please DO SOMETHING NOW!! This can not be allowed to continue at all!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalistsi
May 04, 2015 3:32 PM
Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs