Why we Have to Fight Human Trafficking from Within our Borders
By Henry Onyango for The Seed Magazine
Coming to the city of lights and tall buildings that is Nairobi, is often an attractive prospect for many young girls and boys who have lived most of their lives in the village.
Ruth Nafula 14, not her real name, had just completed her standard eight exams in 2014 when she got her first opportunity to travel to Nairobi.
Her aunt who lives in Kawangware also convinced her to stay on and secure a job as a house help, for some time before joining secondary school.
Nafula was excited as she hoped she would now be able to help her mother who was ailing back at home by buying her food and medicine. This however, was not to be the case.
Nafula’s aunt handed her over to the prospective employer within the sprawling slums where she worked for only a month before ‘escaping’ never to be seen again.
According to the neighbours, Nafula was often mistreated by her employer.
“They would beat her up when she failed to do her household duties on time and even throw her outside to sleep in the verandah. We thought that she was probably one of her children since she was young and had no idea of house help work but we learnt that it was not the case when she escaped,” Mrs Dorcas Odhiambo, a neighbour told The Seed.
Nafula’s aunt has since reported her as missing to the area chief but her whereabouts are yet to be traced.
There are countless such stories that have become the modern day slavery where people are trafficked within their own national boundaries.
Many are like Nafula’s aunt are unaware that they are part of the modern day slavery web where people are trafficked within their own national boundaries.
The Catholic Church through the congregations of women religious has over the years worked to create awareness that would prevent human trafficking in many parts of the world.
Sr Maggi Kennedy of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (Msola) got involved in the fight against human trafficking four years ago.
“Ordinary people and families are drawn into a deep dark pit of hopelessness, often through poverty, money, greed and sometimes adventure and power,” Sr Maggi said in an interview with The Seed.
“I have worked in collaboration with an Awareness Program against human trafficking run by HAART-an organization dedicated to end slavery and slave trade in Kenya and East Africa,” Sr Maggi told The Seed.
This program operated in Machakos for three years training trainers on awareness against human trafficking through small Christian communities in collaboration with Caritas Machakos.
It was supported by Bishop Martin Kivuva of the Catholic Diocese of Machakos and Caritas staff.
Research was also carried out to see the actual situation so that practical action was put in place. The missionary sisters of Africa and missionary sisters of Our Lady of Africa funded the project.
According to Sr Maggi human trafficking in the world is real and touches families like yours and mine.
She narrates how an Assumption Sister of Nairobi shared with her how her two nieces got a job after seeing an advert in the newspaper but have never been seen again.
“The job offered a good salary and many perks. They called the agency. They were asked to go for an interview. Got the job and left the house happy together, with their parents as excited but were never to be seen again alive,” Sr Maggi said.
According to Winnie Mutevu, Programs Assistant coordinator at HAART the organization’s main agenda is to create awareness on human trafficking as most people in Kenya and other African countries do not understand that they could be part of the vice.
“We go to churches, schools and at the grass roots. If people learn that there is a term known as human trafficking and understand that it is a crime against them, they will act,” Ms Mutevu said.
HAART runs a prevention program which entails capacity building at the grass roots and training volunteers on the dangers of human trafficking.
“We send our trainers out to educate the local communities on human trafficking. They tackle issues like: the nature of human trafficking; how to prevent one from being trafficked and refer victims of trafficking (VOTs) to our office,” she added.
She added that the organization also assist victims depending on cases ranging from legal and counseling process.
“We have 26 ladies right now who are stuck in Lebanon. We are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have them come back as early as we can. This forms part of what we do every day to care for humanity,” said Ms Mutevu.
“We always check the age factor in order to know whether someone has been trafficked or not. Obviously any person below 18 years is a child. If she or he is involved in child labour or any form of exploitation it is trafficking. It is our obligation to take action.
In any case we often have a check list on those who travel outside the country looking for jobs or even studies,” she said.
She advised those traveling out of the country to ensure they report to the Kenyan embassy in whatever country they have gone to work or study.
“Before you leave make sure you investigate the job with the ministry of foreign affairs if it is something outside the country. If it is a job make sure you have a copy of your passport and a copy of your contract. If it is a scholarship make copies of the documents and leave them at home and report to the Kenyan embassy in the respective country. If all these do not happen, then we may not be able to help,” Ms Mutevu told The Seed.
She noted that the government needs to step up tough measures to curb human trafficking adding that there is still laxity in the fight against the vice.
“If the government was keen, we would have people being jailed for at least thirty years. There is no one who has ever been jailed for human trafficking to them it is either rape or mistreatment. Sometimes we report to the police cases of trafficking but we are told to go and bring the perpetrator. How do you go and bring a trafficker?” she poses.
According to the UN Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014, The United Nations Office on drugs and crime cited Kenya as a source, transit and destination country in human trafficking.
As a quick rejoinder, the Kenya government has since banned the adoption of children by foreigners as a measure towards ending human trafficking.
In a statement in November 2014, The Cabinet led by President Uhuru Kenyatta noted that Kenyan laws do not define child sale, child procuring, child trade and child laundering as part of child trafficking, a fact that has made human trafficking to thrive in the country.
“This has in effect put Kenyan children at high risk as it creates a loophole for fraudulent, vested interests, masquerading through ownership of children homes, adoption agencies and legal firms representing children, and adopters, to engage in the unscrupulous business of human trafficking under the guise of charity,” the Cabinet statement read in part.
There has also been an upsurge of young unsuspecting Kenyans drawn by adverts for well-paying but non-existent jobs in United Arabs Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Kuwait to the countries.
Unaware of what awaits them, they are trafficked into servitude.
Human Trafficking is the world’s best money earner after drugs and small arms. It is estimated by US Government’s yearly Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report in 2011, 32 billion US Dollars was made out of the innocent blood of 800,000 people who were trafficked within or across international boundaries half of whom were children.
The report further states that 12.3 million adults and children are currently held in modern day slavery which includes forced labour and prostitution.
At the end of a two-day meeting organized by the bishops' conference of England in April 2014, Pope Francis described human trafficking as “a crime against humanity” and urged international police chiefs and religious figures pledged in the Vatican to work together to fight modern-day slavery.
The Pope further urged governments to prioritize human trafficking by passing stern legislations to end the vice.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers announced in November 25, the launch of an International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking to be marked February 8, 2015.
This will coincide with the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave, freed, who became a canossian nun, and was declared a saint in 2000.
“Driven by poverty, human trafficking touches all levels of society, manifests the insatiable greed of unscrupulous people. It may never be stopped completely. But that is no reason to do nothing,” concludes Sr Maggi.