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Kenya: JRS-EA Child Protection Policy - A cornerstone of care to forcibly displaced children in Eastern Africa
15 November 2013

A group of children happily pose for a photograph at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. The revised JRS-EA Child Protection Policy will ensure that such children are safeguarded and able to enjoy their rights. (Shim Yoo-Hwan SJ/JRS)
In displacement situations, quite often, children experience first-hand violence, trauma and bear the pain of separation from their family members and the familiar environment they once called home.
Nairobi, 15 November 2013 – The Jesuit Refugee Service in Eastern Africa (JRS-EA) has officially adopted its revised 2013 ‘Child Protection Policy’ that guides how its personnel should interact with forcibly displaced children who are supported and assisted by the organization.  It calls for personnel to exercise respect and care towards displaced children who are assisted by JRS through its different project activities across the region. 

This revised policy supersedes the earlier 2010 policy and strengthens the organization’s commitment towards safeguarding displaced children against abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation.

In displacement situations, quite often, children experience first-hand violence, trauma and bear the pain of separation from their family members and the familiar environment they once called home.  It is within these situations that children can be violated, abused or exploited, sometimes by the very people they look to, for care and support. 

Commitment to safeguard children. As an organization, JRS Eastern Africa has committed itself towards safeguarding forcibly displaced children and creating best practices – such as this policy – to promote children’s rights as enshrined within national and international law such as the UN Refugee Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children’s Act as applied by the various States within the region.  In addition, this is part of JRS-EA’s collaboration with humanitarian agencies, aimed at preventing sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) within the humanitarian context.

A significant number of those benefitting from JRS-EA support, particularly in education and protection safe havens – are displaced children from various countries and who have fled the terror of conflict and persecution.  “Forced displacement is already traumatic enough for children.  Therefore, it is only more humane to ensure that children are respected, cared for and their rights are not violated while in displacement. JRS believes that this policy serves to safeguard the rights of children against abuse and exploitation.  It also helps the organization be more accountable in offering assistance to one of the most vulnerable groups of displaced people – refugee and internally displaced children,” affirms the JRS-EA Regional Director, Fr. Deogratias Rwezaura, SJ.

Giving children a safe environment. The 2013 policy is more comprehensive as it sets out the minimum standards that JRS-EA personnel or anyone engaged by the organization should abide by and the process of implementing and monitoring the policy.  Displaced children will have the opportunity to report any violations that occur directly to the organization and will provide a forum towards education of both staff and beneficiaries on their rights and duties under this policy.  Focal persons have been identified in each of the JRS-EA projects, who will be in-charge of handling any issues that arise within their projects, relating to this policy.
In addition, each of the JRS-EA projects has specific requirements to ensure that the needs and unique situations in each of the projects are taken into account.  “Not all projects are the same and though the rights of children to be protected from abuse and exploitation are universal (as provided in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), it is essential to take into consideration the differing cultural, operational and humanitarian context of each project,” concludes Fr. Rwezaura.
JRS-EA’s efforts have been greatly enriched by the expertise of ‘Keeping Children Safe’ (KCS), an organisation with over 10 years of experience in child protection and child safeguarding.  This new policy will go a long way in making JRS-EA’s operational environment more child-friendly; especially when children know that there are mechanisms to safeguard them. 

By Stella Ngumuta, JRS Eastern Africa Advocacy Officer

JRS started working in Africa in the early 1980s, providing food, shelter and medical aid to thousands of people displaced by war and famine in Ethiopia. In the early 1990s, the JRS Eastern Africa region was established and gradually grew in size and scope. Today, JRS Eastern Africa works in projects across five countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda) with a focus on education, psychosocial counselling, peace building and social and cultural activities.

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