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Community-based Child Protection Mechanisms in Kisii/Nyamira Area: A rapid ethnographic study in two rural sites in Kenya

 In diverse contexts, community-based child protection mechanisms (CBCPMs) are front line efforts to protect children from exploitation, abuse, violence, and neglect and to promote children’s well-being. A 2009 global, inter-agency review of the effectiveness of CBCPMs indicated that, among seven factors that influenced the effectiveness of CBCPMs, community ownership was the most important determinant of the CBCPM effectiveness and sustainability. However, most NGO facilitated CBCPMs achieved only low to moderate levels of community ownership, as there was a tendency to establish CBCPMs such as Child Welfare Committees as parallel structures that did not build upon existing community mechanisms.

The purpose of this research was to learn about community-based child protection processes and mechanisms in two mostly rural sites in the Kisii/Nyamira area of Kenya. The research is intended to complement and extend the learning from previous research by the Inter-Agency Learning Initiative in two urban slums of Mombasa, Kenya and in two rural areas of Kilifi. To learn about existing community-based child protection processes and mechanisms, the research used an ethnographic approach in which national researchers who spoke Ekegusii lived and worked in the villages, making participant observations, conducting interviews and group discussions with diverse people, and engaging in activities with children. In particular, the research sought to identify how local people (who were positioned differently according to age, gender, and socio-economic status) understand children and childhood, what they saw as the main harms or risks to children, what CBCPMs existed and how they were used, what protective factors enabled children’s positive coping and resilience, and whether and how the CBCPMs linked with elements of the formal, government led aspects of the child protection system.

This research hopes to contribute to strengthening the national child protection system in Kenya. By providing new, grounded knowledge about how people actually respond to child protection threats and about existing prevention mechanisms, the research provides a snapshot of the functioning system that Kenyans actually use and that can inform efforts to strengthen the national child protection system. 

Published 2019-01-11