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Community Child Protection Exchange Webinar Series 28 August 2013 1.30-2.30pm UK time LEARNING ABOUT CHILDREN IN URBAN SLUMS: A Rapid Ethnographic Study of Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms in Two Urban Slums in Mombasa, Kenya. The Inter-Agency Learning Initiative.

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The inter agency learning initiative

Community Child Protection Exchange Webinar Series28 August 2013 1.30-2.30pm UK timeLEARNING ABOUT CHILDREN IN URBAN SLUMS: A Rapid Ethnographic Study of Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms in Two Urban Slums in Mombasa, Kenya

The inter agency learning initiative

The Inter-Agency Learning Initiative

  • Widespread NGO and government use of community Child Protection Committees and Child Welfare Committees

  • Questions about effectiveness, sustainability, relation to existing community groups and wider child protection systems

  • 2010 Global Desk Review

  • Multi-stage learning in Sierra Leone and Kenya

  • Bottom-up approach to systems strengthening—testing the effectiveness of community driven interventions for strengthening linkages between community based child protection mechanisms and formal mechanisms

Global reference group

Global Reference Group

  • ChildFundInternational

  • CPWG

  • Human Sciences Research Council


  • Save the Children

  • Terre des Hommes

  • Tostan

  • TPO Uganda




  • War Child Holland

  • Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict

  • World Vision

The inter agency learning initiative

LEARNING ABOUT CHILDREN IN URBAN SLUMS: A Rapid Ethnographic Study of Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms in Two Urban Slums in Mombasa, Kenya

Mike Wessells, Kathleen Kostelny, Ken Ondoro

and JemaiyoChabeda-Barthe

Inter-Agency Learning Initiative on Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms and National Child Protection systems

Funded by PEPFAR

Overview of kenyan work

Overview of Kenyan Work

  • Research sites in Mombasa, Kilifi, and Nyanza

  • Highly consultative process with diverse Kenyan stakeholders

  • Importance of diversity (e.g., urban-rural)

  • Emphasis on strategic value added and filling gaps

  • Attention to all vulnerable children

  • Development of population-based outcome indicators and measures for children’s risks and well-being

  • Quasi-experimental design for testing a community-driven linking intervention

Kenyan partners

Kenyan Partners

  • UN/NGO: UNICEF-Kenya, Action Aid International, AMREF, ANPPCAN, APHIA PLUS, CARE, CEFA, Child Line, CLAN, CRADLE, Girl Child Network, IRC, KAACR, Plan International, Save the Children, and World Vision

  • Government: Department of Children’s Affairs, Area Advisory Council, District Children’s Officer, Chiefs, and Elders

  • National Research Team: JemaiyoChabeda-Barthe (Lead Ethnographic Researcher) and Ken Ondoro (Team Leader), Michael Mbaru, Maud Saka, and Tracy Saka

  • Youth, children, women, community people



Mombasa research two urban slums informal settlements

Mombasa Research:Two Urban Slums (Informal Settlements)

  • Importance of learning about urban areas

    - rapid urbanization globally

    - urbanization of poverty

    - concentration of very poor people in slum areas

    - less known about child protection in urban areas

  • Giriama—in Bangladesh slum

  • Mskitini—in Tudor Moroto slum

  • Approximately 90% Christian

  • Chronic poverty

  • Mixed ethnicity—Luo, Luhya, Giriama, Kamba

Rapid ethnography of cbcpms

Rapid Ethnography of CBCPMs

  • The ‘Listening Gap’ and reliance on preconceived categories

  • Useful in learning about and documenting local beliefs, values, and practices in a culturally grounded manner

  • Building trust—key in alleviating suspicion and enabling collection of accurate data

  • Timeframe: July-August, 2012

  • National researchers lived and worked in the slums for one month or more

  • Reaching women, men, teenage girls & boys, ‘non-elites’

Key questions

Key Questions:

  • Who is a child and how do children develop?

  • What are the main harms to children, aside from poverty and health issues? How do they vary by gender, age, SES?

  • What protective factors support children?

  • What endogenous and exogenous protection mechanisms and practices are used?

  • When and how do people use the formal child protection system?

  • What barriers are there to the use of the formal aspects of the child protection system?

Research design and participants contrasts by age gender ses

Research Design and Participants— Contrasts by Age, Gender, SES

  • Women: Age 25 years and above

  • Young women (‘makamu’ of marrying age): Age 18-25 years

  • Teenage girls: Age 13-17 years

  • Young girls: Age 5-12 years

  • Men: Age 30 years and above

  • Young men (typically not married): Age 18-30 years

  • Teenage boys: Age 13-17 years

  • Young boys: Age 5-12 years

  • Lower and higher SES (70% vs. 30%): based on criteria of housing material, house size, location, source of income, type of foods eaten

Mapping of pathways of response

Mapping of Pathways of Response

  • When problem X occurs, what happens—who responds or who does child go to for help?

  • What are the steps involved?

  • Who makes the decisions and who is consulted?

  • What are the decisions taken or outcomes?

  • How do different stakeholders (parents, family, community, child) view the outcome?

Research tools

Research Tools

Participant observation & living in villages

Group discussions—risks and pathways, preventive factors

In-depth interviews

Key informant interviews: Government, NGO workers, and local leaders

Timelines: childhood, markers, roles

Risk mappings and Body mappings: learning from younger people

Who are children

Who Are Children?

A child is 2-12 years.

A child is less than 15 years.

A child is anyone who does not know how to look for food and depends on the mother for everything. (Adult women, group discussion, Msikitini)

To say that this is a child, you look at his brain, his thoughts, his behavior and his age. So a child is from 1 month to 5 years. (Young woman, Msikitini)

Local views of harms to children

Local Views of Harms to Children

‘Most serious’ harms

  • Out of school children

  • Sexual abuse and exploitation

  • Early pregnancy

  • Alcohol and drugs

Additional harms

  • Hard work

  • Neglect

  • Bad peer influence

  • Karata (gambling)

  • Child beating

  • Witchcraft





Most serious harm to children

Most Serious Harm to Children

Most serious harm by slum area

Most Serious Harm by Slum Area

Ses effects on ratings of the most serious harm to children

SES Effects on Ratings of the Most Serious Harm to Children

Out of school children

Out of School Children

  • Just to add on the issue of chang’aa, you find that the mother tells the boy child that you have to ‘boil’ [chang’aa] and get money. So when the child starts to ‘boil’ he also starts to touch money and he loses interest in going to school.

  • The parents also, especially the Giriamas, do not take their children to school so they remain idle the whole day and that’s why they get pregnant. Why is it that our children from upcountry do not get pregnant as easily as the ones from Giriama? (Adult women, group discussion, Msikitini)

  • Some children just refuse to go to school. At times the teacher beats the child in school to the point that that child refuses to go school. (Adult women, group discussion, Giriama)

  • Out of school boys often picked scrap. Having earned money, they were reluctant to return to school even if they had the opportunity to return.

Sexual abuse and exploitation

Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

There are also other people who give children money and every now and then, they keep on buying for them “viazi” for ten shillings. Later on, they call these children inside their houses and start touching them on their private parts. (Adult man, in-depth interview, Gariama)

When your mother dies and then you are taken to stay with your uncle, the uncle will now be the person who buys you everything…. Then after some time, the uncle comes to you and tells you that you have to sleep with him…(Teen girls, Msikitini)

There are parents who use their girls to attract customers and sometimes sell the girls to the customers in exchange for money. (Women, Giriama)

Girls frequently stay in school by allowing abuse by an uncle who pays fees

Differences by gender (‘jig jig’) and religious orientation

The inter agency learning initiative

Ratings of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Among Top Three Harms by Different Sub-Groups

Early pregnancy

Early Pregnancy

  • There are girls who go to the disco at night and they meet men there, have sex with them and then they get pregnant and drop out of school. (Teen girls, Msikitini)

  • Disco matanga is a major harm to children in this community. This place is where most of the evil takes place like rape, alcoholism, sex, girls and boys get infected with HIV, girls get pregnant, boys and girls smoke bhang and such like things. (Adult woman, Giriama)

  • And because children have no food, young girls get pregnant early in life. They are cheated with just 20 shillings to buy food and they get pregnant. (Pastor, Giriama)

Hiv and aids


  • HIV/AIDS was reportedly widespread , yet HIV-positive people were badly stigmatized

  • HIV and AIDs are big issues here. Drugs too are a major issue. Some children when they get home and find there is no food, they go and start having sex for money. They are given fifty shillings or one hundred for having sex with an old man, and with this they buy food…. Many teenage girls do this and many have HIV. If we go door to door, you will find many. (Adult men’s group, Msikitini)

    When a child is raped she may also contract the disease. Apart from rape most children here engage in careless sexual behaviors and as a result there is widespread cases of AIDS in this area. (Adult women group, Msikitini)

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and Drugs

  • In other cases, you find the mother of the child is the one who brew chang’aa and then child keeps on tasting. This child will grow up with alcohol because he keeps on tasting and before he even becomes an adult, he is already a drunkard. (Adult man, in-depth interview – Giriama)

  • There are children who also smoke bhang, smoke and drink alcohol and all these is as a result of the group influence. If your child has joined a bad group then the others start telling him or her that drinking and smoking are good and he ends up doing the same. (Adult man, in-depth interview Giriama)

  • When we use them, it harms us and sometimes makes the person go crazy or starts talking to him in the streets. However, that is not his wish, but he is just using drugs so that he frees himself from stress. … (Teen boys, Msikitini)

Dislikes of young children

Dislikes of Young Children

Five to eight years

  • Smelling and touching feces

  • Eating ‘dirty’ or ‘rotten’ food

  • Hearing abuses

  • Being shouted at

  • Being hit on head, hands, or feet

  • Hearing people fighting

Nine to thirteen years

  • Alcohol and drugs

  • Seeing people who had been beaten, burned, stabbed, or killed

  • Hard work such as picking scrap, fetching firewood, or washing clothes

  • Seeing children being raped (Giriama)

Preventive factors

Preventive Factors

  • Family

  • Being in school

  • Religious groups and leaders

  • Youth group: Alpha and Omega

  • Women’s groups: ‘Merry Go Round’

  • Variations by SES

  • Preventive factors were strained or overwhelmed by the burden of accumulating risks

Response pathways

Response Pathways

  • For 70-80% of harms to children, the response was through nonformal family and community mechanisms

  • Pathways of response were particularly weak in regard to sexual abuse within the family

  • Family honor and avoidance of shame were often prioritized over the well-being of girl survivors of sexual abuse

  • ‘Traditional’ mechanisms such as traditional courts or councils of elders were rare to nonexistent

Linkage of cbcpms with the formal system

Linkage of CBCPMs With the Formal System

  • Functional linkages existed through Volunteer Children’s Officers, Chiefs, Elders, and the Police

  • Area Advisory Councils (AACs) are potentially useful in bridging formal and nonformal child protection supports

  • Some referrals did occur through Children’s Officers

  • Overall, however, the linkages were weak

  • Two-thirds said people were unwilling to report a case of stranger rape of a child to the police

  • Obstacles to the use of the formal system:

    - view of police as corrupt

    - concern that reporting will not lead to action

    - wanting to avoid suspicion or discord with the community

    - taboo to report family members

Non reporting of sexual abuse by a family member

Non-reporting of Sexual Abuse by a Family Member

  • Because that is a family affair and the uncle can be called and asked why he has done that. Then he can be told to stop it…. That’s a family issue. (Adult women, Giriama)

  • If it is the father raping a child, I won’t even bother because that is family matter. Let them solve it like a family. (Young men, Giriama)

  • The rapist might be the bread winner in the family. If he gets arrested, people will suffer in the family. I might end up dropping out of school because there will be no one to pay my fees. In fact, that is family thing that people outside the family should not even know. It should be kept a secret. (Young men, Giriama)



Conclusions and recommendations




  • The urban slums are highly toxic environments for children. Children have learned to navigate these environments yet urgently need support.

  • Low social cohesion makes it difficult to create a protective environment for children. Humanitarian efforts will need to work in ways that strengthen social cohesion.

  • Although the preventive factors are overstretched and outweighed by accumulating risk factors, they are assets to build upon.

Sexual abuse and exploitation were widespread and require immediate action

Sexual abuse and exploitation were widespread and require immediate action


  • (1) Child protection practitioners and stakeholders should urgently attend to problems of sexual abuse and exploitation in association with discos, disco matangas, the sale of chang’aa in the home, and drug and alcohol abuse; and

  • (2) Child protection practitioners' and stakeholders' efforts should focus on preventing sexual abuse and exploitation in the family through strengthening parenting skills and family care of children.

    Link work on sexuality, livelihoods, and land rights.

    Test and document intervention strategies .

Views of harms to children varied according to ses age and gender

Views of harms to children varied according to SES, age, and gender


  • (1) Practitioner assessments of child protection risks, resources, and mechanisms in the slums should use child friendly methods in order to include, compare, and contrast the voices and perspectives of girls and boys at different stages of development and from high SES and low SES families;

  • (2) Practitioners should make girls’ and boys’ voices and views central in discussions of what are appropriate, desired outcomes of child protection mechanisms and the wider national child protection system;

  • (3) Practitioners should not use ‘one size fits all’ programs for children living in the slums and should tailor interventions in a manner that meets the needs of different subgroups; and

  • (4) Practitioners should support a process of dialogue and increased understanding between children and adults on issues of child protection and well-being.

The inter agency learning initiative

Being out of school served as a gateway to exposure to additional risks, whereas being in school was a significant preventive factor

  • Recommendations:

  • (1) NGOs and civil society groups should strengthen advocacy efforts with schools and the Kenyan Government to ensure that vulnerable families are exempted from having to pay school related levies for their children;

  • (2) The Kenyan Government, NGOs, and community groups should provide livelihood supports such as access to social protection for vulnerable families in child friendly ways that improve children’s access to schools and health care;

  • (3) Practitioners should build on existing assets for preventing children from being out of school and encouraging children to stay in school. These should include the nonformal aspects of the child protection system such as parents, religious groups, and women’s groups.

  • (4) The Kenyan Government should prioritize efforts to strengthen the schools as a protective environment for children, including the use of positive methods of discipline and the provision of sanitary towels for girls.

Important preventive factors such as religion existed in the slums even for the poorest people

Important preventive factors such as religion existed in the slums, even for the poorest people


  • (1) Practitioners should include in assessments a mapping of preventive factors and other assets for different sub-groups of children, recognizing that the preventive factors may not be conspicuous in urban slums;

  • (2) Practitioners should engage and collaborate with religious leaders, women’s groups, and youth groups in the slums in preventing harms to children;

  • (3) Practitioners should make prevention a high priority in programming by building on and strengthening existing preventive factors.

The inter agency learning initiative

Significant gaps existed between international child rights standards and local views of children and harms to children


  • (1) A high priority for the Kenyan Government and practitioners should be to reduce the widespread use of harsh corporal punishment that is evident in both the formal and nonformal domains of child protection;

  • (2) Practitioners should train parents on positive methods for disciplining children and support local groups in advocating for the use of positive methods;

  • (3) Practitioners should use respectful, dialogue oriented processes to introduce ideas of child rights and child responsibilities, with engagement of adults as well as children.

The inter agency learning initiative

In addressing harms to children, people relied extensively on endogenous, nonformal mechanisms of child protection that need additional support


  • (1) Practitioners should identify and support the endogenous child protection mechanisms in the slums as a means of preventing harms to children and supporting children’s well-being;

  • (2) Practitioners should strengthen appropriate linkages between CBCPMs in the slums and other parts of the national child protection system, including formal aspects of the system through community-driven action.

The inter agency learning initiative

Significant social and cultural obstacles impeded the use of the government led aspects of the national child protection system


  • (1) The Kenyan Government should strengthen the accountability and effectiveness of the formal aspects of the national child protection system. One means of doing this could be to have the AACs monitor the effectiveness of the formal system elements that are accessible to people in the slums and report the results to NGO partners, who could then advocate with Government partners for improvements in the formal aspects of the system;

  • (2) Practitioners should use a patient, internally guided process of changing social norms to address the cultural and social obstacles to the use of the formal aspects of the national child protection system.

Closing reflection

Closing Reflection

The success of the Kenyan national child protection system should be gauged in part by how well it cares for and protects the most vulnerable children, including those who live and grow up in urban slums.



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