Spotlight on ANPPCAN in Kenya
Community action to help a Child Domestic Laborer
March 2006. Mr. Stephen Mwalo, a graduate student at the University of Nairobi, was watching KTN –Weekend prime when a guest in the studio was invited to talk about the situation of child labor in Kenya. After seeing some footage of children in domestic work, Stephen felt the urge to contact the studio guest, Dr. Philista Onyango, and share the details of a case he was experiencing at that time.

He then set out to visit the CIRCLE project at the ANPPCAN regional office, armed with information and a heavy heart. He was looking for a solution to address the plight of Atieno (not her real name), a domestic child worker who had dropped out of school, and who had been trafficked to Nairobi from Siaya (470 kilometres northwest of Nairobi) to do domestic work.

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Photo: ANPPCAN Child Help Desk that helped Atieno repatriate
Born in 1992 in Kisumu, Atieno grew up as any normal child would. However, after she lost her father, her mother sent her to live with her maternal great-grandmother in Siaya. From her tailoring trade in Kisumu, her mother regularly remitted funds for Lillian’s upkeep to the rural area, and occasionally visited her.

All was well until she was in grade 4, and her mother decided to move Atieno from Siaya to Kisumu and place her in Salem Primary School. A recent visit made to Salem Primary School in Kisumu confirmed that the girl attended school there for one term only in 2001. In the same year Atieno lost her mother, and remained in the charge of members of her extended family. In 2002, she joined Nyawara Primary School in Siaya. Her irregular school attendance caused her already dismal performance to deteriorate. After two miserable school terms her guardian had her withdrawn from school to perform full-time household chores. Later that year, her great-grandmother came to Nyawara and took her home.

After a short stint at Gogo Primary School in 2003, Atieno was taken into foster care by another relative, a polygamous uncle this time, and moved to Kisumu to enroll in Kudho primary School. Atieno suffered physical assaults at home (confirmed by her teacher), but due to the benevolence of her teachers at Kudho Primary School she received medical attention at Nyanza Provincial Hospital. She struggled to finish her grade 7 examinations amidst the trauma and misfortune, while still in the foster home. Her uncle declined to let her continue to grade 8 in 2005 under the pretext that he did not have the finances to support her continuation and eventual completion of primary school. She then moved back to her rural Siaya home from where she was trafficked to Nairobi. She was engaged as a domestic laborer in a teacher’s home, situated in Nairobi’s Huruma estate.

Mr. Mwalo met Atieno while she resided in one of his relatives’ houses in Nairobi Ngong’ estate waiting to be moved to her official place of work in Huruma estate. He brought her case to the attention of ANPPCAN and the CIRCLE project, after which deliberations were undertaken, both with the family that had trafficked her from Siaya, and with the family that was awaiting her arrival. The two families were sensitized on the dangers of child labor and advised to engage older girls who were legally permitted to carry out domestic work.

Atieno has been repatriated to Siaya with the help of the volunteer Mr. Mwalo and she is set to join the Bar Sauri Primary School. Mrs. Margaret Onyango, a teacher at the same primary school, has offered to provide Atieno with a home and the family atmosphere she requires to counsel her back into normal life.

A chat with the Headmaster of Bar Sauri Primary School, confirmed that she was undergoing some remedial classes to prepare her for the new school year of 2006. Atieno’s great-grandmother (the closest living relative besides the Uncle) has been consulted on her staying with Mrs. Margaret Onyango and she has agreed.

The Siaya District Child Labour Committee has also been updated on issues concerning this case and they will undertake monitoring to ensure that Atieno’s problem is addressed holistically for successful psychological re-integration into society, and to ensure the successful completion of her primary school education.