Over the past year, with the help of Plan International Kenya, Atali, chairperson of Naya Community Based Organisation (CBO) has rescued 2 girls who were at risk of early marriages and 2 boys from the hands of older women who were exploiting them sexually.
Not an easy journey
“The major challenge we have here is that many people are ignorant about child protection, they feel it is okay for them to take young girls as their wives," said Atali. "Most fishermen and boda boda riders (motorbike taxis) lure young girls with money promising that they will get more if they agree to marry them or just have sex with them.
“Poverty is also a major challenge. Many girls lack money to buy basic items such as sanitary towels and are lured into sexual relations. The majority of girls end up pregnant and their education halted,” he added.
Another risk girls face is sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids which is still prevalent in this area.
We would like to provide safe spaces for our children to grow in
Together with Plan International's Ending Child Marriage project, Atali has continued to mobilise community members to protect children against early marriages. He educates community members on the consequences of marrying or exploiting children sexually.
“There has been positive feedback from the boda boda riders and fishermen who have now taken it upon themselves to ensure that such cases are reported and that girls and boys are safe,” said Atali.
Atali works closely with the Beach Management Unit of Luanda Kotieno Beach, where Dickens Ochieng is the Secretary General. The 2 men have been working to ensure fishermen are sensitised on Child Protection.
“Our greatest hope is to see our community stabilise economically. This will reduce poverty levels and in turn prevent the issues that girls are facing because then, they will not be victims of sexual exploitation. We would like to provide safe spaces for our children to grow in,” said Ochieng.
The CBO together with the Beach Management Unit works with Plan International and local partners to ensure greater awareness of children rights, the sexual offences act and to enlighten the community on their responsibility in ensuring that children are safe. Any cases of abuse are reported to Plan International, who support community members to follow these up through the correct channels.