Children in Embu and Chuka Get Safe Spaces For Play and Recreation
Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that; countries should recognize the right of children to rest, leisure, play and recreational activities and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
Play is a means of developing the skills needed in adult life, as it helps children interact with each other, develop language, learn how to set and adhere to group rules and develop physically.
Children’s ability to find time and space for play is affected by a range of social, economic and political factors. In Embu and Chuka, G.R.A.C.E. supports disadvantaged children below the age of 5 to access Early Childhood Development services. Many children suffer from stress and trauma due to the high prevalence of terminal illnesses including HIV & AIDS. As a result, many of these children are left orphaned, hence deprived of parental love and care.
A number of poverty-stricken children are also forced to engage in farm work and heavy domestic work. This is compounded by the shortage of safe spaces within the communities where children can play and interact in a relaxed and meaningful way. These factors are major obstacles to exercising their right to play, rest and recreation.
In February and March 2015, G.R.A.C.E. established child friendly safe spaces within Embu and Chuka. Safe spaces are community venues that are safe for children to congregate during their free time, especially after school, during weekends and school holidays. Community volunteers were enlisted to engage the children in storytelling and competitive games, as well as to ensure child safety during the play sessions.
So far five venues have been identified and used for play and recreation activities. Play activities that children engage in include sack race, football, athletics, face painting and storytelling focusing on cultural issues. The activities have so far reached approximately 600 children from the two communities and they are becoming very popular, with hundreds of children looking forward to weekends and school holidays so that they can go to the venues, engage in play, recreation and take a rest from their busy and largely stressful lives.
By Pascal M. Mailu
Chief Executive Officer, G.R.A.C.E. Africa