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Children's Assembly demands safe and non-violent environment from key duty bearers

Holiness is a 14 year old member of the ActionAid Child Rights Club and girls’ forum in her school. She is in grade 6 at Mwakirunge primary school in Bamburi Kenya and among the 12 children assembly members at Bamburi Ward level who took the initiative to come up with the memorandum of understanding to petition for a safer and non- violent environment for children around Mwakirunge.

Mwakirunge is one of the official dump sites for Mombasa waste. There are around 500 people living on the dump site, many of whom are women and children. The dumpsite is surrounded by poverty and crime which affects women and girls the most. ActionAid Kenya in partnership with Usafi ni Uhai Community Based Organization (CBO) is working to ensure that women and girls in Mwakirunge area know their rights and can demand for their right to a safe and non-violent environment to live and school in. 

 “The child rights club has opened the eyes of children, parents and the school board of management. We have learned a lot about our rights and various rights violations especially those affecting children in schools, girls and women as the most vulnerable people in our community. We had identified places in our community where it was not safe for us as children and women to pass when going to school and back home. The most dangerous place identified and that all other  hazards were linked to was where the dumpsite was located,” Holiness narrates as she points to the direction of the Mwakirunge dumpsite and continues with the story

“As we passed the dumpsite on our way to and from school the scavengers, usually the men, would insult girls and women by harshly calling and throwing abusive words and sexually suggestive gestures. There were also stray dogs which scared us as we passed by as we are afraid of being bitten. There were no street lights and that made it even more dangerous for us at night. As children, this is something that really scared us, but we realized that we could not fight it alone, and that is why we had to involve our parents, teachers, motorbike riders and local stakeholders to fight for proper management of the dumpsite.  We shared our issue with our teachers and with the help of the officers from ActionAid, the motor-bike riders and local stakeholders were able to listen to our issues relating to the dumpsite. As children we sat and wrote the memorandum of understanding which demanded that the dumpsite area is made safer. We demanded for a fence to be put around the dumpsite, vehicles dumping the garbage to be covered to avoid children hanging on them risking their lives and also highlighted the issue of children dropping out of school, early pregnancy and child marriages related to the dumpsite. ”

 There has been much progress after the children joined other stakeholders in advocating for a safer environment. The Childrens’ Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) was written and signed on 23rd April 2015 by the children under the guidance of their teachers and children department officer. 12 children (6 girls and 6 boys) were coming from Bamburi Local Rights Programme (LRP) which is at the ward level, and another 6 children were coming from Kisauni Constituency. After the children in partnership with the Maji ni Uhai CBO, ActionAid and 45 members from the school’s board of management issued the MOU to the Senior assistant director of children services ,the county speaker and Deputy Provincial Police Officer ( DPPO), the following was done:-

 

1. The dumpsite is now well managed, after the community was sensitized on advocating for proper management of the dumpsite. Usafi ni Uhai CBO is taking lead to ensure children’s concerns about management of the dumpsite are addressed by the County

2. On the County budget process, the Usafi ni Uhai CBO together with the community ensured that the County has budgeted for fencing of the dumpsite which is a milestone.

3. Usafi ni Uhai CBO in partnership with ActionAid has also managed to bring back approximately 15 children who had dropped out from school from the dumpsite and they are now enrolled back in school.

4. Security lights have been put in place as a security measure.

5. Some garbage trucks are covered up to prevent children from hanging on them while they move.

 

 “We now walk home from school in groups with our small sisters and brothers therefore no one can challenge us on the way to school and home. The scavengers were also educated on the rights of children and women, they now find it hard to abuse any of us, and it is now safer,” concludes Holiness.