Kenya: In a First, Army Recognises Single Parents

Kenyan soldiers (file photo).

In a landmark change of military family policy, dependants of single parenthood families within the ranks of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) will enjoy the same benefits as children of legally married couples.

Traditionally, the military has denied single parents benefits to their children until they provided evidence of marriage.

But under the reforms championed by Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen Robert Kibochi, KDF has recognised the single parent family in changes contained in the revised Defence Forces Standing Instruction on Marriage and Family Welfare.

"The military has moved to acknowledge the single parent family structure, including the dependants of KDF parents so as to ensure that the welfare of every dependant is well taken care of," Col Zipporah Kioko, the KDF spokesperson, said adding that the measures would cover families run by single fathers and mothers.

Some of the benefits the dependants of single parents will enjoy range from access to KDF-sponsored schools, medical care, housing, legal and financial advisory and support in case of death.

Single parent households

A study by Dr James Kimani found out that single parent households are as a result of divorce, separation, death of a spouse, choice and breakdown of traditional structures in the face of globalisation, modernisation, migration and urbanisation.

"The issue of single parenthood has gathered momentum where children are not raised by both parents as expected in the African traditional set up. Single parenting is higher in females compared to males," says Dr Joshua Mbithi.

According to the latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, nearly half (45 per cent) of children in the country do not live with both parents.

The data shows that death of the father is responsible for just 5.3 per cent of single mother households in Kenya.

Twenty two per cent of children live with their mothers even though their fathers are alive.

With the decision to recognise the dependants of single parent families, KDF becomes among the first armed forces on the continent and the world to craft such a policy.

In a number of countries, single parents are not allowed to enlist in the active-duty military.

KDF personnel

In most of the cases, their dependants are not entitled to military benefits. The recognition of dependants of single parent families is part of the ongoing changes to improve the welfare of military families.

Last month, Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma presided over the launch of the Military Wives Association of Kenya, a network which brings together spouses of current and retired KDF personnel.

The association, which is being chaired by Mrs Tabitha Kibochi, the wife of General Kibochi, aims at improving the welfare of serving and former military personnel.

It will work closely with KDF's Compensation and Welfare Department.

The association began its operations by providing locomotive devices to several cerebral palsy children. Such youngsters face mobility challenges.

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