The Role of African Culture in the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Kenyan Experience

By Otieno, David Ngira | International Social Science Review, December 2018 | Go to article overview

The Role of African Culture in the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Kenyan Experience


Otieno, David Ngira, International Social Science Review


The issue of child vulnerability is a concern of many postcolonial African governments. The deplorable conditions under which orphans and other vulnerable children live compounds general family poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Governments and international bodies have passed laws to improve the situation of children. However, this paper will demonstrate, the status of children in Sub-Saharan Africa has continued to deteriorate, thus putting into question the effectiveness of these legislations. With a focus on Kenya, this study explores the possibility of a bottom-up integrated approach that is culturally sensitive in tackling the challenges facing children in Kenya.

This study consists of an introduction and five sections. Section one initiates the discussion by exploring the conditions of children in Kenya. Using the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as a benchmark, the section focuses on children's social-economic rights and the extent of their attainment in Kenya. Section two engages with theoretical discussions about the nature of human rights in general and examines various human rights approaches. It shall explore the philosophical and moral justifications for children rights. Using examples from different jurisdictions, it will demonstrate the differences and contradictions in the conception of childhood. Then the nexus between cultures and human rights in general as well as the history and nature of the CRC is discussed. Section four explains various aspects of Kenyan Culture and how they can be used to guarantee children rights with a particular focus on education, and protection from vulnerabilities and harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This part also explores how culturally sensitive approaches to development such as community led care facilities, harambee projects, and kinship foster care for orphans and vulnerable children could be used to attain a better life for children. The conclusion summarises the main thematic areas of discussion and highlights future areas of research.

The overall objective of the study is to examine how African culture can be used to achieve the goals of CRC. The specific research objectives were: 1) To investigate whether and to what extent African cultural values are (in)consistent with the CRC; 2) To explore how the changing cultural values alter or reinforce any existing patterns of oppression against children; 3) To examine how African cultural values, national legislations and CRC can be used to develop an integrated approach in dealing with children's rights in Kenya.

The following research questions guided the study; 1) Is there a relationship between African cultural values and CRC; 2) Do the changes in African cultural values alter or reinforce any existing patterns of oppression against children; 3) Can the African cultural values, national legislation and CRC be used to design an integrated approach in handling children's rights in Kenya?

Methodology and Theoretical Framework

This study relies on the secondary research design with both descriptive and analytical approaches. The descriptive approach involved a critical examination of reports, legislations, and policy papers to determine the situation of Kenyan children, while the analytical approach focused on the theoretical and normative positions advanced by various scholars on the subject. This study utilizes qualitative data obtained from various sources, key among them being UN publications, NGO reports, academic articles, and Kenya government reports.

The interest theory of human rights provides this study with a theoretical foundation. The theory, which basically postulates that an individual has a right to something if he has an interest in it, explains the underlying theme in the study; that children have rights to health and education because of the significance of these requirements in facilitating their development.

Summary of the Problem

Whereas many writers have examined the various strategies of improving the situation of children in Africa, little has been done to determine how African culture can be utilized to realize these rights. …

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