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Kenya’s national director calls for end to silence on violence against children


National Director of Scripture Union Kenya, Nancy Kahuthia, has called for action to stop violence against children, which has seen an increase following the recent pandemic lockdowns.

Speaking on national television, Nancy headed up a discussion on how government and faith organisations could take steps to tackle the problem, with statistics showing that one in every two children in Kenya experience violence against them.

Talking on the programme Nancy said, “It’s important that we have this conversation, because when we think about the numbers it’s really very worrying… we are talking about 10 million kids who are violated. We have a problem on our hands and it is completely unacceptable. We need to bring these conversations to the fore because many people are not aware of these statistics.”

Nancy said people were afraid to speak out, even when they knew a child was being harmed. She said, “In faith circles we talk about sins of commission and sins of omission and both are just as bad. Only two out of five who experienced sexual or physical violence told someone about it.” 

“This is part of what we need to deal with. There is secrecy around issues of abuse. Even when we talk about one out of two children experiencing violence, I think that is only what is reported. I believe the figures are a lot higher.”

Nancy said statistics showed that, particularly during the Covid season, most of the perpetrators of violence were family members or people who were known to the person who was violated.

She said, “So we have this secrecy of silence, and it’s no wonder the problem has escalated. This is what we need to tackle – we need to break the conspiracy of silence. The more we keep quiet the more cases will increase.”

“What Covid has done is to accelerate an already existing problem. When parents and children are locked down in one place there is constrained movement, that is bound to bring a lot of idleness and a lot of mischief.”

She said learning life skills about how to communicate with one another when under pressure was one of the ways to help and that faith based organisations have a key roll to play. She encouraged Kenyans to download the new National prevention and response plan against violence to children. Nancy said there were also examples of good stories, such as Scripture Union Kenya’s programme on mental health and wellness. 

“What we are saying is that we all need to be involved. This is a battle that we must win, we don’t have an option about it. Violence begets violence, so what kind of future do we want for our children? We need to design strategies today that will give us the future that we want for our children – a safe future, a bright future, a hopeful future.”