Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice Calls for an End to Harmful Practices at our Day of the African Child Celebration

Kakenya’s Dream hosted an event last week to commemorate International Day of the African Child, observed annually on June 16 to reflect on the progress made toward improving and protecting African children’s rights and to inspire action to address the challenges they still face.

On June 18, Kakenya’s Dream hosted a colorful ceremony to commemorate International Day of the African Child in partnership with the Regional Education Learning Initiative (RELI). This year’s event was special for us, as we had the rare privilege of hosting Justice Philomena Mwilu, Deputy Chief Justice and Vice President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, as our keynote speaker and guest of honor.
During the event, attended by over 1,500 students, teachers, and other community members, Justice Mwilu spoke to this year’s Day of the African Child theme, “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children.”
In her powerful remarks, Justice Mwilu emphasized that female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage remain major threats to the educational progress and childhood development of Kenyan youth. “Despite being illegal and fundamental violations of the rights of the child, FGM and child marriage remain deeply entrenched in the social and cultural norms and practices of several communities in Kenya, including amongst the Maasai.” She cited the UNICEF and Kenya Demographic and Health Survey data which indicates that the prevalence rate of FGM in the nation is at 15%, with prevalence being much greater in the Maasai community, where it stands at nearly 66%.
She urged the community to invest in girls through education, noting that societies that have done so are stronger and more prosperous. “It is well known that if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation. It is no surprise then that we see the lowest levels of development in the areas where girls are not in school and women are not educated.” Justice Mwilu applauded efforts by Kakenya’s Dream and our founder in this space. “We are inspired by Dr. Kakenya’s work in rescuing girls from harmful cultural practices, including FGM and child marriage, empowering them through education, and transforming communities in Kenya.”
Justice Mwilu also emphasized the judiciary’s commitment to protecting Kenyan children by ensuring they have a safe, nurturing, and empowering environment in which to thrive and meet their full potential. “In collaboration with our justice system partners, the judiciary will do it’s part, including through outreach and advocacy, to end these harmful practices. This is not just a moral imperative; it is a constitutional obligation. Under Article 21 thereof, it is the fundamental duty of every state organ to observe, respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Specifically, to address the needs of vulnerable groups within society, including children,” she explained. 
Assistant County Commissioner in charge of Kereto Division in Transmara, Philip Gumba, who also spoke at our event, echoed these crucial sentiments. 
To ensure that children’s perspectives remain central to these important conversations, Kakenya’s Dream also organized child-led discussions in tandem with our event. These discussions gave students the opportunity to share their own concerns and ideas with parents and other youth about this year’s Day of the African Child theme, “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children.” 
While it remains the responsibility of national and grassroots leaders to implement solutions to effectively address barriers to children’s rights, at Kakenya’s Dream we believe it is critical that we also listen to and center children’s voices to ensure that we reach the best possible solutions to the complex challenges that they face. 
Our event culminated in a powerful march through the community that left us feeling empowered and energized to tackle the work ahead.

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