On Saturday 30th of June 2018; pupils and students, accompanied by some of their teachers and guardians, the entire Tuvumiliane Witu organization, as well as the pastoral team of Witu/Kipini parish marched through the streets of Witu. We covered a distance of about one kilometer through Witu town to the Catholic Church compound carrying banners and singing:
Tupewe haki zetu!!! Tupewe haki zetu!!! Tupewe haki zetu!!!
Meaning: we should be given our rights.
This demonstration was carried out to sensitize the entire Witu Community to the rights of children. This was in accord with the theme of this year’s celebration of the African child which says; “Leave no child behind for Africa’s development”. The celebration this year in Witu was spearheaded by Tuvumiliane Witu HIV and AIDS, a community-based organization, organized by Witu Catholic Church. The organization was established in 2005 and has, since then, established five more support groups and two children’s clubs within Witu and Kipini. Members of these groups are only those who are HIV positive. This organization was started by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of St. Joseph (Mill Hill Sisters).
In an effort to promote children’s rights and protection in our communities we chose this Day of the African Child to sensitize children to their fundamental rights and to empower them to stand up for their rights. Banners, speeches, dramas and songs were all carrying messages which could be summarized as:
- Give every child an opportunity to study,
- Stop marrying off girls at tender ages,
- Stop female genital mutilation,
- Give all children equal opportunities.
For this occasion of the Day of the African Child, two pupils from our primary school Witu Amani Catholic Academy were chosen as guests of honour. They beautifully, with confidence and clarity, presented their speech in these words.
“…Today is a day for children in Africa, every boy and every girl with a dream for better life.
Let me tell you the Genesis of this day. On June 16th 1976 hundreds of students in Soweto South Africa rose against the apartheid government to protest against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of children were killed.
The day has been celebrated every year since 1991 when it was first initiated by the organization of African unity.
It also raises awareness of a continued need for improvement of the education provided to African children.
… Their efforts were not in vain. As we remember them, let us never forget that they gave the platform that inspires sober reflection and action towards addressing challenges facing African children….
…This year we are focusing on problems still facing some of the children here in Kenya and more so here in Lamu county. for instance, we are talking of early marriages, lack of quality education, child abuse, female genital, terrorist attacks, just to mention a few.
…. I stand here today to speak so that those children without a voice can be heard. I raise my voice so that those girls in various parts of the country, who are denied opportunity to grow as children, quality education, participating in airing their views and all other rights entitled to them because of this vices can find a future.
…Dear elders and community members, this is why l raise my voice today because:
- I don’t want my basic rights as a child to be violated.
- I don’t want to be forced to drop out of school.
- I don’t want to face my sister with health complications due to early marriages, pregnancy and female genital mutilation.
- I don’t want to be infected with HIV/AID…
…So today we call upon all leaders to develop and enforce policies and provisions of the children’s Act to promote equality of opportunity for all children…”
Undeniably, this speech like many other speeches was addressing challenges faced in Witu on a daily basis. Much reference was made to the girl child, who is a victim of violence in Witu due to cultural practices. Practices that give the boy child the upper hand in the society and reduces the girl child to a housewife. Even with this, a good number of boys still do not realize their dreams as many of them are forced to take care of animals or sell farm products on the streets rather than go to school.
Beside speeches that took place in the Catholic Church premises after the street demonstration, there was entertainment by schools, both primary and secondary as well as cultural and social groups. The celebration ended with food and drink, cutting of the cake and sharing gifts to children.
Reflecting on the messages of this celebration, one finds the challenges we are facing as missionaries in Witu. This is a challenge because in a society where children are suffering because they cannot realize their dreams and potentialities, it becomes difficult for gospel values to take deeply root. It is the dream of the parish, to create more opportunities to educate parents, teachers, guardians and leaders, that together we may create a society where every child finds a home, is loved and cared for. Society must create opportunities to enable children to achieve their dreams in life.
Alexander Kimbi mhm