An important chapter in the life of Kenya’s children opened two Thursdays ago. Maybe, it was not marked by enough pomp and colour to attract equal attention but it is one of the highlights of the year in so far as the welfare of Kenyan children is concerned. While all cameras were focused on the visiting British monarch two weeks ago, First Lady Rachel Ruto stole a moment to visit Mji Wa Salama, a temporary place of safety (TPS) for children run by the Child Welfare Society of Kenya. The First Lady had asked to share lunch, as well as her time, with the children.It was in the midst of all this that she offered to be the voice and advocate for all the children of Kenya. This is big news for those of us in the field of child welfare.

Actually, it ought to be big news for every Kenyan who has a place in their heart for children. Traditionally, children held a hallowed place in any society. They ought to. Children are the best evidence we have that our tomorrow is guaranteed. Our future is in our children. Everything we work and fight for, everything we build or cultivate is for the future—and that future is given life by children. Without children, all our striving is in vain.But today’s child is neglected right from home. We live in a world that has placed more premium on work and material success than on children. As such, many children grow up unheard, unseen and uncared for. It is a pity that thousands of children are finding refuge in the streets, TPSs and charitable children’s institutions.

Some fall into the wrong hands.Various studies have identified Kenya as a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. Many children have been trafficked for labour and commercial sex exploitation and, in a worst-case scenario, organ harvesting and use as guinea pigs in medical trials abroad.The First Lady said this must stop. Kenyan children must never again be exploited. With her, every Kenyan child, whether at home or in the streets, now has a voice that will speak up for them: She will be their advocate. This is a game-changer.Granted, all of us who have been blessed to work in the space of children do our best to speak for them. But our voices have most often been ignored or drowned, threatened, intimidated and manipulated. With a voice now speaking from the highest residence and office in the land, we are assured that the welfare and interests of children will henceforth be safeguarded.

The issues affecting the child living with absentee parents will be heard; same as those of the children living in the streets or in charitable institutions. Every child matters. It was regaling to hear the First Lady invite Kenyans to open their homes to vulnerable children. Echoing the President, she said every able Kenyan should place an extra seat at their dining table and an extra bed for a needy child out there.

The best place to raise children is not in the streets or charitable institutions but in a family set-up—at home. Kenyan children are honoured and full of gratitude to the First Lady for this gesture. Together with all the players in this sphere and with the guidance of the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection Florence Bore, who is also championing the rights of children, especially the most vulnerable, I am convinced that this is a great time for all the great children of this republic.

Irene Mureithi, Chief Executive Officer / Managing Trustee