In November this year, the views of 40,000 children in Kenya were presented in the form of a national Children’s Charter, launched at the Universal Children’s Day celebrations. A result of collaboration with local, national and international agencies, children from 31 out of 47 counties in Kenya took part in the initiative.

As part of the Every Last Child campaign, the charter is the outcome of a 7-month nation-wide mobilisation on children’s development priorities, within the framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The overall goal of this process is to link the emerging issues, faced by children in Kenya, with the implementation of the SDGs. Each of the 31 counties created charters at the local level, reflecting children’s issues, which were then summarised in the form of a national charter. As Kenya has been absorbed in political uncertainty and environmental pressure, the development of this Charter is all the more significant.

Not only is this a great example of collaboration with other organisations, working together with Child Fund, Mtoto News, the Kenya Children’s Assembly and World Vision, but the Children’s Charter also characterises a phenomenal example of child participation. As central components in the framing of their futures, the countrywide campaigning engaged children in the whole process.

The seven-month campaign

The first phase of the campaign began in May 2017, with the development of the first Children’s Charter by the Kenya Children’s Assembly, where they developed postcards to collect children’s views on matters that affect them. The postcard campaign [pictured] went on to take place across the country, where children had the opportunity to write their thoughts down on questions such as: ‘What can our leaders do to make sure every child in Kenya feels safe, cared for and confident about their future?’ and ‘What makes you proud to be a young Kenyan?’

The purpose of the cleverly designed postcards was to get children’s views on the actions needed by the government.

A 16-year-old boy in Wajir County shares his thoughts by saying, “I feel proud to be Kenyan because Kenya is a peaceful country compared to other countries.” In the same county, a 13-year-old girl has the following request from her local leader, “They have to provide for our basic needs and ensure all children get an education.”

After the postcards were collected, pre-charter events were held in every county, aimed at giving feedback to the children and to help them create a detailed document, a County Charter, highlighting the emerging issues in the county and steps they want their government to take.

Children’s demands from their government

National Children’s Assembly Governor, the young teenager Joseph Kariuki, spoke at the launch of Bungoma County Children’s Charter. There, he expressed the need to protect children from child abuse, early pregnancies and to ensure the children’s bursaries fund increased in the education sector.

In addition to education, three more topics came out strongly at this meeting: health, insecurity and hunger. Children at the event felt they needed to engage the government on keeping children healthy and receiving quality health services. Secondly, children voiced the need for social peace and justice after children died during the election unrest. Finally, the children requested more investment in the farming sector to prevent children dying from hunger, particularly in North Eastern Kenya where there is a lack of food.

Next steps

With participation a driving factor, children’s voices have led to eight counties so far committing to ensure development outcomes for children in the 5-Year County Integrated Development Plans,(CIDPs), due to be finalised in January 2018. An ongoing process, we hope to see more counties engage with the issues emerging from the campaign as time goes on. Child-led delegations have negotiated their inclusion into the 5-year plans, which will subsequently influence national planning and budgeting. Locally, this has reminded elected officials of their responsibility to the children they represent, while the national launch represents an inspiring and influential moment for child participation more generally.

The review of outcomes achieved against the CIDPs will be announced in January 2018. A sustained process to review the implementation of children’s priorities – both nationally and at the county level – will take place annually from 2019-2022.