Report: The Second Counter Human Trafficking Symposium for the Faith Based and Grassroots Organizations in East Africa

By Sammy Mwangi and Richard Muko Ochanda.

The second Nairobi Counter Human Trafficking Symposium for the Faith Based and grassroots Organizations took place in Shalom House, Nairobi from the 22nd to the 24th November 2011. The Symposium brought together 57 organizations from the East African countries. Key during the Symposium were the strategies used by FBOs and the grassroots organizations in combating the human trafficking problem in East Africa. The participants benefitted from a moral reflection given by the Jesuit Hakimani Center (JHC) and KARDS and various field strategies in combating this problem from the representatives of the organizations that attended the symposium.

The Symposium was sponsored by the Mensen met een Missie and organized by Consolation East Africa, KARDS, Jesuit Hakimani Centre, Trace-Kenya, Inter Religious Council of Kenya(IRCK), International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) and Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) among other Faith Based and grassroots organizations to raise  awareness on the dangers of human trafficking, brainstorm on practices and strategies to counter human trafficking and explore the laws and policies to mitigate against human trafficking.

According to the US government, media reports and other literature human trafficking in East Africa takes place for purposes of  sexual exploitation, labor, and witch craft. Human trafficking is considered as an endemic social problem, pervasive and heinous crime and one of the most pressing human rights problems.  The Symposium acknowledged the salient fact that there is a growing awareness in the international community about the gravity of the problem of trafficking in persons as well as the pressing need for sustained and concerted actions at the national, regional and international levels in order to prevent, monitor and combat human trafficking. The objectives explored during the Symposium included:

  • Creating peer to peer linkages aiming to promote effective collaboration and networking amongst the FBOs, CSOs working to combat TIP.
  • Enabling the new participants understand the problem of human trafficking.
  • Sharing knowledge, skills and experiences from different FBOs and grassroots that work to combat human trafficking.
  • Understanding tools and resources( both legal, economic and psychosocial) available for victim assistance

After the symposium the following conclusions were arrived at:

1. Poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, unemployment, porous borders, widespread corruption, gender discrimination and deteriorating economic conditions are the  major factors fuelling human trafficking.

2. The East African governments need to improve the economy, empower girls and women with educational, economic, employment and necessary professional opportunities in order to assist them to resist the temptation of human trafficking. Increased opportunities for women render them less vulnerable to human trafficking and ensure their well being and security. Providing women empowerment schemes, providing necessary protection, micro credit assistance and vocational training for better income generation possibilities, improvement of the economy etc.

3. Adequate prosecution of traffickers without compromising the rights of the victims to privacy, dignity and safety must be done by providing necessary assistance to trafficked persons during the pendency of criminal, civil or other legal actions against traffickers. Protection of human rights of victims/survivors should be the basic and paramount consideration and not only crime prevention. Victims of human trafficking should not be criminalized but the traffickers and their accomplices engaged in the illicit trade and exploitation must be severely punished to serve as a deterrent.

4. Legislation and law enforcement alone cannot provide sufficient prevention.  The root causes that drive women, children and the socially excluded people into human trafficking such as poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, unemployment, porous borders and economic conditions must be addressed through measures such as raising public awareness regarding human rights and the risks of trafficking. Others factors inherent within the patriarchal culture that promote oppression of one gender also should be addressed.

5.   In addition to legislation, the Symposium noted that concerted efforts against human trafficking by governments, Faith based organizations and grassroots organizations at the local, regional and international levels are critical in order to effectively address the complex problem of trafficking in persons and to provide adequate redress for the victims. Governments and FBOs should systematically partner with each other to ensure the implementation of anti trafficking policies, laws and action plans. Education systems on the other hand should include human trafficking in their curricular.

6. Collaborative efforts at both the local and national levels should include Religious  and community leaders, parents, teachers, other stakeholders e.g. Police, immigration, customs, National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and other Related Matters, Law enforcement agencies, Judiciary, Media and Civil society organizations etc. Governments should collaborate with FBOs, CSOs and all interested stakeholders in the development and implementation of national plans of action in accordance with the national Counter Human Trafficking Laws. Understanding of the legal processes will also be of additional fundamental value.

7.  Functioning families do help quite a lot in preventing TIP. FBOs have a great role in helping to strengthen families as the fundamental social fabric.  Coupled with the role of the family, there is a need to help the patriarchal society in the transformation of the construct that end up treating women and the vulnerable people as objects for economic purposes or self gratification.

8. Advocacy and Awareness programmes on human trafficking should be   intensified to expose the dangers of human trafficking and improve knowledge of the anti- human trafficking laws. The public information campaigns against human trafficking should be extended to the rural areas where women and girls have less access to information and are usually poorer and easier to influence using small promises.

9. Effective data collection and information systems should be developed to inform policies and laws on human trafficking and programming at all levels. It is a fact that data collection in this area is quite challenging hence creative ways should be sought such as case studies, and the development of ethnographic studies.

10. Trafficking in persons could be effectively addressed through a multi-faceted, coordinated and integrated national and international plan of action. Hence individuals have an important role to blow the whistle when they witness exploitation.  Organizations on the other hand are called to continuously build their capacity in order to be able to deal with the complexity of the human trafficking problem effectively. Coupled with this there is a need for strong partnerships amongst the FBOs and other stakeholders to address the root causes of trafficking in persons. Donors and international community was requested to support  data collection exercises and other programs against trafficking in persons. Key in the intervention process is also to heal the wounds of the trafficked victims hence organizations should adequately arm themselves with skills in psycho, social and emotional counseling.

11. Finally, the symposium emphasized that the human being is made in the image of God. Any  immoral acts affecting the human dignity have deep repercussions and do affect the society too in a negative way. The faith communities, the society, governments and media should therefore continue promoting a greater awareness of the human dignity to their followers.

 

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