Follow these links to find out more about the Health Policy Project's related work.
Organization: African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), Kenya regional office
Area of Response to HIV: OVC
Interview was originally published in the July 2015 newsletter.
Wambui Njuguna is the director of programs in ANPPCAN's Nairobi, Kenya regional office. The organization's mission is to enhance, in partnership with other organizations, prevention and protection of children from all forms of child maltreatment, helping to ensure that children's rights are realized. ANPPCAN has conducted extensive advocacy on behalf of the rights of HIV/AIDS orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). The HIV Policy and Advocacy Monitor spoke with Wambui about her experiences serving children and her organization's work.
HIV Policy and Advocacy Monitor: What motivates your work on behalf of children?
I am a mother of two and I look forward to grandchildren; upholding the rights of children has always been one of my core beliefs. I believe that a failure to invest in our children will result in considerable costs to countries and societies. When children cannot access healthcare or education, and continue to face abuse and exploitation with no support, then you have a disaster. If we invest in our children then we have invested in the future; what we invest in children, we reap in the years to come.
HIV Policy and Advocacy Monitor: You currently work for ANPPCAN; how did this organization come to exist?
ANPPCAN is a pan-African child rights organization formed in 1986 by researchers who wished to share their findings on child exploitation. Because Africa dealt with different issues than Europe or the Americas, they decided to form an African network to serve as a forum for continued discussion and sharing of research and work on child labor and other relevant issues to promote change. ANPPCAN was founded by six African countries and now serves 26, with a regional office in Nairobi. While its work is diverse, the network remains focused on protecting children from abuse and neglect and defending their rights.
HIV Policy and Advocacy Monitor: What led to ANPPCAN's involvement in the HIV response?
About 14 years ago, ANPPCAN worked in the Kibera and Korogocho slums of Nairobi to mobilize communities to protect children. The organization focused on improving the overall environment of the slums for children and promoting access to education. As this work continued, ANPPCAN realized that the number of children without parents was increasing. Many children in the slums were in the care of relatives, as their parents had died due to HIV-related complications.
ANPPCAN began organizing services and advocacy events in these communities to promote the benefits of raising children within families rather than in foster homes. However, as the number of HIV/AIDS orphans increased in the 1990s and the new millennium, foster homes began to grow. From the work and research conducted by ANPPCAN and other organizations, we knew that relatives were more ideal placements for children than foster homes, which were often unmonitored. Policy and advocacy work became necessary to address safe placement with families.
HIV Policy and Advocacy Monitor: What ANPPCAN activities are related to policy and advocacy?
ANPPCAN's advocacy is built on research; we identify a problem and determine the best course of action. We continue to engage with governments on the rights of children, especially OVC. Previously, most children's institutions were not registered with the government. This resulted in a significant oversight problem, as the Department of Child Services [Kenya] could not monitor these establishments to ensure that they provided high-quality services. ANPPCAN worked with the department to improve monitoring and supervision of children's homes, including the development of operational guidelines and minimum standards, including those for OVC.
ANPPCAN also works through conferences, where we can advocate on specific issues and address them with stakeholders. In 2005, ANPPCAN hosted the first national conference for Kenya on foster care. In 2009, we held the first international conference in Africa on family-based care for children. These conferences resulted in the creation and subsequent implementation of major recommendations, and acted as a forum to raise awareness on the dangers of institutionalizing children, especially OVC.
ANPPCAN has also worked to empower schools and students to address HIV-related stigma. We started "child rights clubs" in more than 40 schools, designed to empower children (including OVC) to protect their rights and promote the idea that all children deserve respect and care. Child help desks have been established in the same schools, allowing children to report abuse. Additionally, communities have been sensitized on the need to protect the rights of children, including OVC.
In Kenya's Loitokitok county, female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage are still practiced. After learning about their rights, children have started reporting to schools when fellow students are absent because of FGM or marriage. The government has been able to use these reports to prevent further acts.
HIV Policy and Advocacy Monitor: What are ANPPCAN's policy priorities in the response to HIV?
ANPPCAN's priorities include the establishment and strengthening of child protection systems, especially at the national level, because child protection in many African countries is sporadic, uncoordinated, and poorly resourced. An effective child protection system includes laws and policies that protect children from violence and exploitation; a government coordination mechanism that brings together government departments and civil society organizations at all levels; a management information system that ensures regular collection of information on both prevalence and incidence of child protection issues; and services and responses that are effectively regulated and coordinated.
By contrast, Kenya's responses to the well-being of children, including HIV/AIDS orphans, are sporadic and unprofessional, and there is no effective national child protection system. Kenya must determine the capacity of existing human and financial resources to develop and support these systems.
Regionally, ANPPCAN must ensure that its national-level work is carried on to other countries in the network. While the African Union has discussed OVC issues, more can be done to ensure protection of the rights of children in all African countries. Encouragingly, more countries are promoting family-based care.