I met him clearing bushes somewhere in a public farm adjacent to a forest with other prisoners. I was passing by in a friend’s vehicle and had to stop the vehicle to just confirm well what I was seeing. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, ask him his name or what his crime was due to presence of armed police men and my friends being in a hurry. But that image has not yet left my mind. He was just a small boy, very young and handsome with a distant innocent look on his face. He was serving a jail term and undertaking his daily punishment with other prisoners who were way too old. I later found out a two weeks later after he was released from prison that he stole someone’s money.
He committed an offence but he was just a kid and that did not warrant for him to be arrested/detained with adults. Just like many other children from marginalized areas he undergoes a lot of challenges growing up which includes; Poverty which leads to chronic food insecurity and absolute deprivation, harmful social cultural practices that aggravate their vulnerability and poor health care services for children. Growing number of children also indulge in abuse of various drugs and harmful practices which has not only affected their education but has also compromised their health and life more.
We do not have Juvenile courts, remind homes or rehabilitation centres for juvenile delinquents so they are just put in the same cells as adults which can lead to abuse, influence to committing more crimes, labeling and rejection at very tender age.
We have great national policy supporting children but delivery of basic services relating to implementation of economic, social and cultural rights have been devolved thereby placing an obligatory burden on the shoulders of our County Government to ensure that our children progressively realize their relevant rights. However, we don’t yet have such policies that can holistically nurture and protect the well-being of children in place.
We need child friendly environments with policies that can tackle and eliminate harmful cultural practices that effect children’s progress and shatter their hopes/aspirations. Strict policies and laws to safeguard the rights/protection of children has to be put in place. Having rescue centres is of high priority to support and enhance welfare of survivors of harmful cultural practices. There are so many girls struggling and undergoing a lot of challenges courtesy of such practices. We need remand homes and rehabilitation centres for our juvenile delinquents. Children make a number of mistakes as they grow especially if they lack support and protection they need but they should not undergo the same punishments as adults. What they need is mentor-ship and support. Awareness of children’s rights by them and their duty bearers should also be enhanced. I still remember the unsaid pain and innocence on the young boy’s face. The society has surely betrayed him and the childhood.
A number of institutions are coming up in support of child protection policies, I hope that we will soon have a child-centred programming that aims at finding all children, listen to them and design with them with overall aim of improving their position/situation. Can children everywhere be safe and protected?