The Government of Kenya led the implementation of their first Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) in 2010, and launched the VACS report in 2012.
The Kenyan Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Development, in collaboration with Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, coordinated the implementation of the VACS with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PEPFAR, UNICEF, and other Together for Girls partners.
Kenya was one of the first countries to complete a second VACS in 2019, and launched their VACS report in 2020.
These second survey results offer an unprecedented opportunity to measure progress since the 2010 VACS, evaluate ongoing efforts, and identify opportunities to create safer communities for every child, adolescent, and youth. Results from the 2019 Kenya VACS informed the National Prevention and Response Plan (2019-2023) concurrently with the report launch.
In the decade between VACS reports, Kenya prioritized a number of policy and programmatic changes that aimed to reduce violence against children. In 2010, Kenya revised its constitution (Article 53) and strengthened the rights of children: recognizing the need for all children to be protected from abuse, and affirming that children have the right to education, nutrition, shelter, health care, and parental care. During this period, the country also saw significant social and economic progress. Kenya averaged 5.5% GDP growth since 2010, and in 2014 it became a middle-income country, signaling the availability of greater domestic resources.
Despite the promising reductions in violence, the 2019 VACS report revealed concerning trends on recent violence among adolescent ages 13-17: the prevalence of unwanted attempted sex in the last 12 months was higher in 2019 — at 9% — compared to 2010 — at 3%.
These findings underscore the importance of data disaggregated by sex and age, and that overall trends may mask risks and from specific forms of violence. Overall, these results point to progress in Kenya but also suggest the need to continue to build on efforts to better protect and prevent violence against adolescent girls, specifically.
This qualitative study on violence against children was conducted to examine the shifts in children’s experiences of violence in Kenya from 2010 to 2019.
The study explored violence against children policies and guidelines established during this period. It also reviewed the strategies and interventions employed and the coordination and implementation mechanisms, including building service providers’ capacity and strengthening information systems to reinforce violence against children prevention and response services.
The 2022 National Care Reform Strategy for Children seeks to guide national efforts towards family strengthening, robust alternative family care, and transitioning from institutional care to family and community-based care for all children in need of care and protection.
By becoming a Pathfinding country, Kenya's government leaders made a formal, public commitment to comprehensive action to end all forms of violence against children.
The Pathfinding Countries initiative aims to raise awareness, stimulate leadership commitment, galvanize action, and establish a standard of national violence prevention throughout the world.
The results from the 2019 Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) established that violence against children is still prevalent. The government — through the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and Department of Children’s Services — developed a national prevention and response plan (2019-2023) that aims to reduce violence against children prevalence by 40%.
VACS completed, implementing response
The data shows overall reductions in violence since 2010
The 2019 Kenya VACS shows that in the past decade, a coordinated response to the VACS results by partners led Kenya to make great strides in preventing sexual violence against children. Between 2010 and 2019, the surveys showed substantial reductions in sexual violence against children.
Since the 2010 Kenya VACS, the prevalence of any childhood sexual violence was reduced in half for females, from 32% to 16%, and by two-thirds for males from 18% to 6%.
Data to Action workshops bring together stakeholders from multiple sectors to review VACS findings and identify priority issues shown by the data, as well as possible strategies for addressing those issues.
The workshop is a step in a longer process of translating the VACS results into meaningful prevention and response policies and programs.
The collection of data for the second VACS in Kenya took place between December 2018 and January 2019.
The process was conducted through face-to-face computer-assisted personal interviews by trained interviewers with selected eligible participants using a structured questionnaire. To ensure privacy during the study, interviewers were trained to ensure that interviews were conducted in safe and secure locations in order to maximize disclosure and ensure confidentiality.
These guidelines were designed to provide comprehensive guidance on psychosocial support to children who have experienced the impact of emergencies such as natural disasters, conflicts, or humanitarian crises.
The 2018 Standard Operating Procedures provide guidance for healthcare providers on how to apply child-centered approaches for the effective management and support of child survivors of sexual violence.
By providing a comprehensive framework, the Guidelines on Child-Friendly Justice aimed to create an environment where children can fully participate in legal proceedings, receive fair treatment and access justice in a manner sensitive to their needs and best interests. They emphasised the importance of upholding children's rights to privacy, dignity, and non-discrimination throughout legal processes. In addition, they highlighted the need for child-friendly spaces, specialised training for justice sector professionals, and the use of child-appropriate language and communication methods
The 2017 Prevention of Torture Act defines rape and sexual abuse as physical torture and strengthened existing frameworks for the prevention, prohibition and punishment of such acts, as well as reparations to those who had experienced them.
The 2016 Child Labour Policy aimed to eliminate all forms of child labour
This framework provided comprehensive guidelines to ensure the well-being of children in schools, addressing not only violence and abuse but also bullying and other safety concerns. The framework aimed to foster a secure educational environment where children could learn and grow without fear by promoting proactive measures and effective response mechanisms.
The 2016 Sexual Offences Act strengthened the legal framework for addressing sexual offences and providing better survivor protection. It expanded the definition of sexual offences to include offences against children, such as sexual exploitation and abuse. The SOA also criminalized the possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. Additionally, it introduced stricter punishments for sexual offences based on the complainant's age.
The 2015 National Action Plan provided a coordinated approach to implementing legislation, policies, and programmes to address critical issues such as poverty, child labour, and violence against children.
The 2015 Education and Training Sector Gender Policy was designed to create a safe and protective learning and working environment, specifically addressing the issue of sexual harassment and gender-based violence (GBV) within educational institutions. In addition, the policy outlined measures and strategies to prevent and respond to incidents of GBV, promoting gender equality and fostering a supportive atmosphere for all students and staff members.
The 2015 Adolescent Reproductive Health Policy recommended the development of safety nets, rehabilitation and rescue mechanisms, and enhanced measures to protect young people in penal institutions from sexual abuse and violence.
These guidelines provided clear direction on the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders involved in managing cases of child abuse and neglect. These guidelines ensured effective coordination, assessment, and intervention strategies for child protection cases.
The 2014 National Guidelines on the Management of Sexual Violence were designed to provide information about the management of sexual violence in Kenya and focus on the necessity of availing quality services that address all the medical, psychosocial, and legal needs of a survivor of sexual violence in both stable and humanitarian contexts.
The 2014 Guidelines for Alternative Family Care of Children provided national guidance for child welfare and protection practitioners in order to improve the
quality of family support and alternative care services in Kenya.
These guidelines provided schools and other educational institutions with comprehensive guidance on identifying and reporting violence cases within the educational setting; by equipping educators and staff with the necessary knowledge and tools, the guidelines aimed to create a safer learning environment for children.
The NCPS provided a comprehensive framework for preventing, responding to, and supporting children who have experienced violence. This system aimed to establish a coordinated and holistic approach to child protection, involving various stakeholders at different levels.
Guided facility level service providers to provide comprehensive services to survivors of sexual violence.
This policy aimed to foster a coordinated approach to preventing and responding to GBV by establishing GBV coordination committees at the national, county, and community levels and outlining a range of initiatives focused on prevention, response, and support for survivors.
These guidelines provide a framework for meaningful and effective inclusion of children in decision-making processes. They established principles and standards for child participation and delineated the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders involved.
The 2013 Media Council Act No.46 protects the privacy of minors by prohibiting the naming of children in sexual offense cases as witnesses, survivors, or defendants and requires parental authorization for media interviews.
This plan committed to establishing integrated one-stop sexual and gender-based violence response centres in healthcare facilities nationwide, providing comprehensive support to victims.
This plan of action was formulated to outline strategies to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse nationwide.
The Child Protection Systems Guidelines were introduced to promote coordination and collaboration among government agencies, civil society organisations, and other relevant stakeholders in child protection. They facilitated the development and implementation of comprehensive county action plans.
The 2013 Basic Education Act aimed to ensure that all children in Kenya are provided with free and compulsory primary education and youth of school-going age attend and complete basic education. Through this Act, Kenya made progress in promoting access to education for all children, including those from marginalized and vulnerable communities.
The NCCS was established as Kenya's primary government agency coordinating child protection efforts. By bringing together government agencies, civil society organisations, and other key actors, the NCCS has been instrumental in enhancing the country's capacity to address issues related to child protection effectively.
Using the data from the 2010 VACS report as its guide, the Government of Kenya released a Summary Findings & Response Plan in 2011. Along with the government, PEPFAR, UNICEF, other bilateral and multilateral organizations, civil society, and individuals contributed to collaborations to improve access to education, strengthen legal protections, scale up income and economic strengthening approaches, and link the most vulnerable children and families to resources, services, and care.
VACS completed, implementing response
The 2011 National Gender Policy provided a framework for promoting gender mainstreaming across all policies, planning, and programming in Kenya. It recognized the importance of incorporating a gender perspective and implementing measures to address gender-based violence. It also established institutional mechanisms to facilitate the effective implementation of gender-related initiatives.
The 2011 Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation and categorised it as a violation of a person's mental and physical integrity. This act has been widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive laws against female genital mutilation in Africa, as it clearly defines the practice, criminalizes perpetration, mandates reporting of cases, and prohibits verbal abuse or shaming of uncut women.
The collection of data for the first VACS in Kenya was conducted between November and December 2010.
The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010 prohibited all forms of human trafficking and imposed penalties for trafficking children, including sexual exploitation.
Kenya's 2010 National Children Policy provided a comprehensive framework for addressing children's rights and welfare issues, as well as monitoring and evaluation criteria for implementing related policies and programmes. The policy prioritizes children's survival, development, participation, and protection, with the aim of creating an environment where all the rights of a child in Kenya are fulfilled.
The Standards were designed to harmonise interventions by stakeholders, encourage fair distribution of services and provide a framework for monitoring and evaluating the impact of the programs serving vulnerable children.
The VACS process demonstrates that change is possible. The significant reduction in violence against children and youth in Kenya since 2010 highlights the importance of data in providing evidence to inform policies and programs aimed at preventing violence. It also demonstrates the impact of governments, organizations, partnerships, and individuals working together to create safer communities for children, adolescents, and youth.