The Kenya government has released the 2017/2018 national budget three months early. Like every year, Kenyan’s were keen to see what food prices have been reduced and what taxes have been increase.
We at Mtoto News were keen to see if the budget was in the best interest of the child. Kenya is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), Article 4 obligates the following
“States parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation.”
This provision is meant to ensure the implementation and realization of children rights. This means that the government is supposed to develop budgets in the best interest of the child. According to General Comment 19 of the UNCRC (2016) which expounds and give guidelines to UNCRC Article 4 the committee of experts states that Budgets should be systematically planned, enacted, implemented and accounted for at the national and sub-national levels of the State, in a manner that ensures the realization of children’s rights. This includes equipping all levels and structures of the executive, legislature and judiciary with the resources and information required to advance the rights of all children in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.
We therefor look at the Kenya National Budget 2017/2018 statement from a child rights perspective. Interrogating it against the four child rights pillar namely Development Rights, Survival Rights, Participation Rights and Protection Rights.
This pillar of rights include different forms of education (formal and non-formal), primary health care, leisure and recreation, cultural activities and the right to a standard of living that is adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Thus it is important for the government to consider budgets for different groups of children within the current generation, while also taking future generations. The budget should ensure that children are able to move from infant stage to adulthood.
Hence we commend the government for several project under investing in Kenya, that are aimed at ensuring child development rights , for instant the free primary (14 Billion) and secondary education (33 Billion) the exam fee waiver. We believe this will go along way in improving access to education to many children and allowing them to sit the very important exams. We also note with appreciation the 0.5 Billion allocated to sanitary towels, this will go along way in ensuring that the girl child is able to go through school without interruption and improving the hygiene of this girls. The feeding program worth 2.5 billion will ensure that children from deprived areas are able to access education.
The digital literacy project will ensure Kenyan children are at per with children from the rest of the world. We also believe that completion of the state of the art library in Nairobi will improve the literacy level among children. We also note with appreciation the investing in tertiary education for our children.
We however note with concern as much the government has committed to increase the number of teachers, provided free basic education, what is the quality of our education. We will monitor the resource utilization to ensure that children have not only free education but also quality education. We also note that their was no allocation to informal schools that are found in many parts of the country, easing the burden of education from the government.
This pillar obligates the governments to ensure that children survive and develop healthily. Children have the right to an identity ( an official record of who they are). Governments should respect children’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties.
We note the government’s efforts to improve maternal and child health by providing free maternal care and universal health for vulnerable children. We also note the removal of tax of Maize, which will ensure that families are able to provide at least one meal per day for their children. Thus advancing survival rights for Kenyan children.
Birth registration is a key right to survival which compromises all other rights, as much as we note the governments plan to have a unique identifier for exams, we did not see governments plans to ensure universal birth registration for children born in Kenya.
These articles cover the rights of a child to express her/his views in all matters affecting that child, in keeping with his or her evolving capacities. In Budgeting for children means mobilizing, allocating and spending sufficient funds to communicate and engage with children, their families and caregivers about budget-related decisions, including legislation, policies and programs that affect them.
We note with concern that children were not involved in the budgeting cycle, which is a fundamental right for children. We therefor recommend that government not only provide time but also resources to ensure that children participate in the next budgeting cycle.
We also recommend that the government should develop child friendly budget, to ensure children participate in monitoring the public spending of the budget as well as give feedback to the National Treasury on how to consider them in the budget.
These rights include protection from all forms of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and cruelty, including the right to special protection in times of war and protection from abuse in the criminal justice system.
We commend the government allocation to orphans and vulnerable children, the 9.6 Billion will ensure this children are protected and are able to fulfill their full potential. We also note the allocation to the rehabilitation of street families and child welfare society of Kenya.
70% of Kenyans were abuse as children and an average 10,000 calls being made to the national child help line per month. This means that the government needs to step up the child protection efforts and end violence against children. Research has shown child abuse has long term effects on an individual which affects their productivity as adults.
It is estimated that cost of inaction on ending violence against children cost Africa 400 Billion Dollars, Which is an average of 0.8 Billion Dollars per country which is 80 Billion Kenya shillings. This cost according to Overseas Development Institute (ODI) include short-term health service costs and loss of schooling (which have significant costs in terms of human capital disinvestment); to medium-term mental health costs and productivity losses over the life-course, in addition to the significant costs resulting from loss of life in the worst cases of violence.
This means that the budget allocation is only 1% of what it cost Kenya to deal with violence against children or child protection concerns. We therefor recommend to the government to consider the increase in allocation to services geared towards ending violence against children, which will include increasing the number children officers, to reduce the ratio of children officers to population which stands at 1:33,000.
Adequate allocation to complete and disseminate the new children law is paramount to ensure that all Kenyan children are aware of the legal provision that protects them. The allocation should include development of child friendly version of the new children law and Constitution 2010.
We also urge the government to increase allocation to the implementation of the National Plan of Action on child rights, which include strengthening local mechanism to protect children such as Area Advisory Councils.
In our opinion this years budget is an improvement of previous on development and survival rights. We however believe a lot needs to be done in involving children in the budget development cycle, including allocating adequate resources for child participation from the ward level.
We also believe the government needs to re-look the budget allocation on protection rights, which will ensure that we don’t loose a generation to violence against children.
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For further details on Child Friendly Budgets