Strengthening or Weakening the State Citizen Social Construct: Governance and Accountability Dynamics of Non-State Actors Providing Social Protection for Vulnerable Children in Western Kenya

Authors: Okwany, A. and Ngutuku, E.
Year: 2015
Type: Grantee publication – working paper

An abundance of non-state actors (NSAs) are providing social protection to vulnerable children in the Western and Nyanza regions of Kenya. While their support ranges from education and health to livelihood needs, their number and range of activities are not well known. This study investigated the role of NSAs in enhancing the wellbeing and citizenship rights of vulnerable children by examining their governance and accountability mechanisms and how these affect performance.

The study was conducted in Kisumu East sub-county in Kisumu County, Kakamega Central sub-county in Kakamega County, and Ugenya, Ugunja, Gem and Alego Usonga sub-counties of Siaya County. The first phase was a quantitative mapping of 501 social protection NSAs in the area, the second phase was an in-depth survey of 49 child-focused NSAs and their beneficiaries. Data collection techniques included structured questionnaires, focus group discussions, key informant interviews and creative child-participatory methods. Quantitative data were analysed using the SPSS software while qualitative data were sorted, organised according to themes and analysed using the constant comparative method.

NSAs ranged from local, national and international non-governmental organisations to community-based organisations, rescue centres, and youth, women’s and self-help groups. Most NSAs had governance and accountability structures for reporting to donors and the State, but accountability to beneficiaries was weak. Children were largely subordinate in the interventions. Cooperation among NSAs did not involve activity implementation so duplication of services was high. NSAs relied mostly on donor funds, raising doubts about their sustainability.

NSAs make significant contributions to the well-being of targeted children, but their project approach, inability to tackle the multi-dimensionality of child vulnerability, and lack of accountability to the community make their interventions largely palliative. The government could help NSAs improve their service delivery by defining the social protection priorities for vulnerable children; fostering an integrated approach to social protection to address the multiple dimensions of child vulnerability; regulating NSAs to improve their responsiveness and ensure even distribution of social protection services for children; addressing the governance and accountability issues of NSAs through legislation; and enhancing NSA capacity through education and training.


Keywords: vulnerability, childhood, non-state actors, social protection, governance, accountability

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