Social Protection for Children Must Benefit Children

Barbra Too at the EAC.

On August 25 - 26, 2016, Nairobi, Kenya hosted the second East African Community (EAC) Child Rights conference organized to launch the EAC Child Policy (adopted in March 2016) and to access progress towards realization of Child Rights in East Africa.

The conference’s theme, ‘Coordinated and Sustained Investments on Children’, featured child sensitive and HIV-inclusive social protection (policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labor markets, diminishing people's exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability and old age), thanks to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Africa Platform for Social Protection and Regional Inter Agency Task Team on Children and AIDS in Eastern and Southern Africa (RIATT - ESA), all of whom are part of the Inter Agency Working Group on Children’s Issues in the EAC.

Study findings presented by RIATT - ESA show that sustainable age-specific social protection can enhance adherence to HIV treatment and improve health outcomes for children and adolescents.

“While social protection promotes access to health for children, only one third of children in the world have access to social protection,” Dr. Tavengwa Nhongo, Director for Africa Platform for Social Protection, said.

EGPAF supported three young people from the foundation’s Kenya program to share their experiences of being diagnosed and growing up with HIV – to show how, despite their HIV status, social protection has enabled them to thrive.

One adolescent who was infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission, narrated how psychosocial support groups – which are part of social protection measures - helped her deal with stigma and gave her courage to live her life.

“The most painful is being stigmatized by family,” Barbra Too, a partially orphaned, HIV-positive young girl said.

“When my family learned I had HIV, I was given my own plate, cup and my own place to sit,” Barbra told the conference delegates.

“Since I have known and accepted myself, our parents and government should accept us. Having HIV is not the end of life.”

At the conference it was emphasized that social protection for children must be beneficial to children and their caregivers, and discussions were held on the package of services for vulnerable children and youth in East Africa that is being developed.

A delegate highlighted the fact that Kenya is working on a new law on social protection to replace the existing Social Assistance Act that is not broad enough to include child-sensitive social protection issues raised at the conference.

Children speakers from South Sudan made passionate appeals for rights of children fleeing from conflict situations to be guaranteed in every EAC member state.

Coming nearly four years since first Child Rights Conference, held in September 2012, the conference was attended by delegates from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan.

Among the recommendations of the conference were:

  • Development of an EAC plan of action to guide the implementation of the EAC Child Policy at national level
  • Enactment of a regional Child Rights Law by the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) to Ensure equal treatment for all children in the region and ensure social protection interventions
  • Policies and programs in all partner states are HIV-inclusive
  • Social protection services must be flexible, age appropriate and context specific

The East African Community is a regional intergovernmental organization of six partner states: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, that aims to deepen and widen co-operation among partner states in various spheres for their mutual benefit including political, economic and social.

“It is gratifying to note that EAC has prioritized the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, " said Rhoda Igweta, Associate Director for Policy in Africa for EGPAF.

EGPAF, with programs in four of the partner states, has been working with the EAC through the Inter Agency Working Group on Children’s Issues to ensure that the EAC has in place the policy frameworks to facilitate the implementation of child rights in the region.

Source: Team EGPAF | September 14, 2016