Grassroots organizations and anti human trafficking efforts

Muko Ochanda

Grassroots organizations are becoming important players helping to solve community based problems in East Africa. Several studies show that these types of organizations were on the decline during 1980s because of restrictive policies and started reappearing in 1990s as a result of the liberal reform environment. In the 2000’s the grassroots movements are contributing significantly in the human development of their communities through promoting knowledge based activities, improving the quality of lives and community income earning abilities. They exemplify social welfare and empowerment structures amongst the poor. They hence help in increasing the poor people’s participation in the social and economic processes especially in Kenya.

The grassroots organizations in East Africa take the form of community based organization (CBOs), self help groups, village based organizations to address particular challenges or simply endeavors developing around a particular faith based community. They represent vulnerable groups who are severely affected in terms of material conditions and vulnerability to local community, national and global policies and economic conditions. It is also important to note that the term grassroots does not take care of the latent differences amongst members in terms of resources, skills, education, those directly or indirectly affected by the problem being addressed. These differences have a bearing on the differences in terms of participation and benefits accruing to each member within the grassroots groups.

Apart from addressing other challenges, the grassroots organizations can also become important players in addressing the problem of human trafficking in East Africa. Past studies have shown that some cultural aspects skewed against the female gender in all East African communities have tended to fuel human trafficking. These aspects include early marriages, parents easily giving their girl children to help raise family income, hiring of girl children as domestic servants, denying women of inheritance and the culture of wife inheritance. The oppressive gender based aspects are too many and it is not very easy to exhaust them.  Oppressive cultures commove with subjugation in other aspects of life such as in politics, economics, religion and education.

Media reports since 2008 have shown that human trafficking in East Africa takes various forms.  In some of the conflict ridden countries of East Africa they may take the form of abductions of children and women to be used for militia, domestic duties or sexual purposes. Dominant amongst the media have been the reports of human trafficking for ritual sacrifices or for extraction of organs to be used as mascots. Organs too are sold exorbitantly to the wealthy patients in advanced countries requiring transplants.  People have also been trafficked for labour or to satisfy the sexual needs of sex tourists both at domestic levels and internationally. There have been cases of traffickers targeting children who are sold to childless parents. Albinos have been a great target for people seeking the opportunity to sell some of their body parts for ritual purposes. Traffickers have included law enforcement agents, diplomats to the members of the public. Some while committing this offense did not know whether or not it was an offence. On the other hand the common problem in the media has been to mix the issues of illegal migrations, smuggling and trafficking in persons.

Governments in East Africa have enacted laws to deal with the issues of trafficking in persons. However in addressing this problem there is need that the social actors move beyond the confines of the law to also address human rights issues. Awareness creation should take various forms. This thus calls the grassroots to

i. Belief in the basic communitarian lines of action. The communities must be made protagonists of their own good.  Such community structures as self help groups, CBOs and other types of grassroots arrangements in Kenya and Tanzania would hence prove to be useful in mobilizing mass education efforts against human trafficking.

ii. There is need to build the capacities of communities to address their social, economic, political and

cultural challenges. Implementation of skilled education would help in addressing negative cultures and bring a desired transformation in the cultural, political, economic, social and religious spheres.

iii. Through research, communities be helped to see what strengths and gaps are prevalent in their own cultural practices. This will be important in awakening a capacity for sacrifice, self confidence and ability. It will help communities and individuals understand themselves and their values better and hence work towards their own enrichment.

iv. Identify the most marginalized and vulnerable sections of the society. An example in our case being

which community is more likely to produce many victims of human trafficking or which sections of our communities are more susceptible? The vulnerable are the ones who are most prone to the maledictions of human trafficking. This could be because of lack of education or being neglected. On the other hand we should avoid giving a privilege to the undeserving at the expense of those that really need our services.

v. The grassroots being based in their communities are called to have a preferential option for the poorest community members and to be committed to simplicity. This commitment to action must be motivated by true charity and concern for the plight of the poor and their pain. We must therefore not be extravagant but spend the resources at our disposal in a targeted manner in order to be of true benefit to the suffering.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rashidah Ali
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 20:05:35

    Grass Roots Organization,Inc.the purpose is to identify the gaps, develop and assemble an expert team to enhance the on job training and dissemenate recommendations materials to address the needs of the communities. We will access and gaps in educational training and mentoring of beginning farmers and ranchers.
    We need your contribution.



  2. Rashidah Ali
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 22:05:08

    Grass Roots Organization,Inc.the purpose is to identify the gaps, develop and assemble an expert team to enhance the on job training and dissemenate recommendations materials to address the needs of the communities. We will access gaps in educational training and mentoring of beginning farmers and ranchers in the work study project who are improvished and homeless.

    We need your contribution to defray the cost .



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