Climate change leaves children vulnerable to sexual violence
Climate change and global warming which are having diverse effects on the environment and people’s livelihoods cannot be understated.
Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.
The northern frontier of Kenya remains a place where climate change has had devastating effects. It has left many people and animals dead in its wake. Families have disintegrated as the search for water and pasture has left the its foundation shaken.
One area that has been greatly affected by climate change is Isiolo County. The changing climatic conditions are fuelling high cases of defilement among street children in Isiolo County who are neglected and exposed to paedophiles, particularly during the dry season.
On the streets one will find children sleeping on the dirty and crowded streets. Others are begging on the crowded, dusty, dry and noisy streets of Isiolo town. Dressed in dirty and heavy torn clothes, are children as young as five years facing the wrath of life as a result of hunger due to drought and famine brought about by the harsh effects of climate change.
I stand near a shop, five children between six and 11 years come begging ’’Tununulie chakula (buy us food)”.
I ask one of them where their parents are. ”Sisi hatuna wazazi , walituacha kitambo, hatuna makao, tunataka tuu chakula (We have no parents, they left us long time ago, all we need is food).”
One of the boys was limping. On enquiring further I later found out that it was as a result of sodomy. He wrestled with the attacker and injured his leg in the process.
Khadija Rama, who runs a children’s home, Pepo la Tumaini Janguani, in Isiolo says the situation is worse during the very dry seasons.
“Children are deserted in these kambis (villages). In this facility I have children I rescued from the streets of Isiolo who are HIV positive. Their tales are shocking and sad concerning gender based violence,” explains Rama. She adds: “Many have been raped on the streets while others have been sodomised.”
Rama says: “I cannot cope with the very large numbers of these children on the streets, I have a clinic here supported by donors I bring them in test them for HIV and we put them on treatment.”
She says generally in Isiolo town, due to the high influx of immigrants who come in with different cultural backgrounds, children living in the streets are in constant danger.
A lot of commercial sex workers live in this town, children are exposed to some of these things at a very early age. “Sadly we do not have structures here to help us fight with this big problem,” notes Rama.
On an ordinary day, the town is busy with a bee hive of activities. Miraa (khat) business booms here, some women dressed in black robes, commonly known as buibui are busy selling merchandise ranging from food stuff and other house hold goods. The men sitting close to miraa dens chewing and shouting in their local dialects of either Borana or other migrant languages. Being a highly cosmopolitan town with at least nine military camps, Isiolo town harbours the most vulnerable children who find themselves on the streets begging without basic needs.
“We really don’t know how to address this challenge of children being defiled on the streets of Isiolo. This is a very dry region and when hunger strikes children are left to fend for themselves, that is why you see them here, I wish Allah (God) could hear our prayers and bring in regular rains, may be things could be better,” says Halima Juma.
According to Alex Alusa, Climate Change Policy Adviser, Ministry of Environment Water and Natural Resources: ”The impact of climate change on social economic systems and how that has a bearing on the development agenda in Kenya is a critical issue that we need to deal with.”
He adds: “We have a Climate Change Bill that is supposed to be enacted into law. This Bill gives a framework on adaptive measures that will see Kenyan communities that struggle with climate change effects develop adaptation and mitigation mechanisms that would improve their livelihood.”
Alusa emphasizes the need for a collaborative effort from both the government and communities to be able to fight the adverse climate change effects which lived people vulnerable and desperate.
A tough question hangs, despite all the interventions the government and counties have worked on, gender based violence against children is still fuelled by socio-economic challenges.
Key legislations providing for gender based violence and regulating the affairs thereof include the Constitution of Kenya 2010; Children’s Act 2001; Sexual Offences Act 2006; Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011 and the Penal Code among others.
The Constitution further provides for the adoption of international law and best practices relating to gender based violence. The law has provided for Constitutional gender based violence bodies charged with the regulation and coordination of GBV affairs in the country. To this end, the National Gender and Equality Commission has been established with the overall mandate of GBV coordination.
The GBV coordination has co-opted the government line ministries of Health, Finance, Devolution and Planning, as well as Labour. Other constitutional offices that are involved in GBV coordination include Kenya National Commission in Human Rights, Constitution Implementation Commission, and FGM Coordination Board..