Tim Ekesa, 40, is Director of the Kenya Alliance for the Advancement of Children. The alliance is a network of children’s organisations that works on policy change and advocates for the rights of children, for example through drafting alternative reports for consideration by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Mr Ekesa joined the Alliance in 1994 as a programme officer, and became director six years ago. He was invited to make a presentation, and be on a panel of experts, at the day dedicated to the rights of the child at the 13th session of the Human Rights Council.

I think that the Human Rights Council does offer an opportunity for change. Although I think that one day for the rights of the child, out of 27 or something, is not enough. To consider all the issues, there needs to be three days devoted to children’s rights. And children need to be more involved – not just reading out statements, but meaningfully involved.

I’ve been happy with the issues some of the countries are raising
, and it is good that there are follow-up hearings where there is the opportunity to influence. For example, countries like Norway are asking important questions, and they are big donors for organisations in my country, so that is positive.

Some countries are well prepared, but there are some that just make general statements – including my own. They were saying exactly the same things five years ago. I went to a side event on the Optional Protocols to the CRC, and it makes you realise that these instruments are there, but not many people know about them and they are a real opportunity for advocacy.

Meeting with the Special Rapporteurs is great because you see how passionate they are. Its inspiring and makes me think we can go back and really push for change.
I was invited to come by the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child to make a presentation.

Participation is very important to our work, and we were one of the first countries to bring children to a session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. We went to different regions and encouraged children to select their own representative. We have also established child rights clubs in schools, where teachers are just the facilitators
Because we work with more than 200 schools in Kenya, we often come across the problem of sexual violence.

As children are now more aware of their rights, they are able to talk and tell us about it. There was recently the case of a teacher who had got two girls at his school pregnant. In fact he was the headmaster, and we had trained him in child rights. He was sacked.

Awareness is growing.
Often, when the child of a poor family is raped, the abuser offers $50 to the parents so they don’t take the case to court, but now they often don’t accept it and take the case to court. We also train court officers in children’s rights so that they know how to deal with the situation.

The media is also handling it in a better way. They used to put pictures of abused children on the front page, but now they know they should not be identified.
What often happens is that the teacher is influential in the community, so he persuades parents to accept money, or promises that he will marry the girl, to prevent the case from going to court. Orphans also often go to teachers for help, but end up getting abused. I helped to set up a child helpline in the country, and the majority of the calls are about sexual abuse.



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