Social Networking amongst Counter Human Trafficking Organisations in East Africa

Presented at the Second Counter Human Trafficking Symposium for the Faith Based and Grassroots Organizations in Dar es Salaam 28th to 29th March 2012


Constantine Deus

Deus is an organizational development consultant

Social Network: Definition and History

The concept of social networking has been approached differently and different scholars leading to multiple definitions and there can hardly be one global agreeable definition. The definitions to be used in this paper do not in any way try to be absolutely complete however attempt to give a clear understanding of the phenomenon.

A diagram showing the extent of networking to counter human trafficking amongst the organizations in Kenya according to a study by KARDS in 2009 (p59). The centrality position is maintained by a number of the civil society organizations. 

A social network could be defined as a social structure made up of a set of actors which could be individuals or organizations with the dyadic ties between these actors such as relationships, connections, or interactions. It is an approach which can give a picture of the structure of a social group, how this structure influences other variables, or how structures change over time (Wasserm at el, 1994).

Given the modern technology scholarship in the on line form of social networking have also emerged as articulated by Brian Stterfield (2006), according to the fore said scholar, Online social networking is a form of social networking which involves connecting and sharing of information with other like minded people via online sites such as yahoo groups, my space, of the most recent facebook and twitter as well as blogs.

A diagram depicting the networking pattern in Tanzania. Source KARDS (2009). The central position is maintained by IOM. (p61)

Despite the existing disparities in defining the concept of social network/ing yet their wide agreement on the interdisciplinary nature of the filed, it emerged from social psychology, sociology, statistics, and other subjects just to mention but few. Jacob Moreno is a scholar highly credited with developing the first sociograms in the 1930s to study interpersonal relationships as structures in which people were points and the relationships between them were drawn as connecting lines. These approaches were mathematically formalized in the 1950s and theories and methods of social networks becoming wide spread in the social and behavioral sciences by the 1980s (Wasserm at el, 1994).

In practice, social networking could be argued to have existed throughout human history hence being as old as human history however, in literature some of the ideas of social network theory are found in writings going back to the ancient Greeks becoming much more evident during 19th enlightenment century.

In the late 1800s, both Émile Durkheim (1893) and Ferdinand Tönnies (1887) approached the idea of social networks in their theories and research of social groups. Tönnies  asserted that social groups can exist as personal and direct social ties that either link individuals who share values and belief (community) or impersonal, formal, and instrumental social links (society or organizations in this context). Durkheim (1893) gives a non-individualistic explanation of social facts arguing that social phenomena arise when interacting individuals constitute a reality that stands beyond the will and control of an individual. In connection to that, Georg Simmel (1908), writing towards end of the twentieth century, commented also commented on the nature of networks and the effect of network size basing on interaction and concluded that relations formed out of social interaction ends up making a loose network rather than forming a group.

Human Trafficking and counteracting Organizations in East Africa

On 15 November 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention against Organized Crime, which came into force on 23 September 2003.  As a supplement to the Convention, with the aim to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, also known as the “Palermo Protocol,” was adopted. The Palermo Protocol defines “Trafficking in Persons” as: “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation in the said context refers to the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”  (IOM, 2008)

However differently human trafficking might be defined basing on the variation of social context from cross time and societies. It is of no doubt that the Palermo protocol laid the foundation of the human trafficking across the globe that most countries blended in their laws forming the basis for operation amongst different actors including Civil Society Organizations in counteracting the phenomenon.

Reports demonstrates that, Human trafficking have emerged to become a global problem, affecting every region in the world. With accordance to the US Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report, it is  that estimated 600,000 to 800,000 individuals are trafficked across international borders, with millions more trafficked within their own countries, each year.

In connection to the above, the issue of Human Trafficking is dynamic and complex in its nature. It takes different forms and involves different actors. It has causes and effects and even outcomes to individuals, communities and families. Counteracting the problem under the given nature of modern globalist society makes it difficult for one single agency or approach to deal with the said problem. It does not mean that there can’t be single effective agency to deal with the issues of Human Trafficking but it means that no single institution or state agency can deal with human trafficking in its totality.  According to KARDS (2009) and  IOM (2011), the list of stakeholders which were identified to be potential in counteracting Human Trafficking in East Africa includes the following.

  • Law enforcement agencies (police, prosecution, immigration, children officers);
  • Judicial officers;
  • Social workers;
  • Local administration/leaders such as chiefs;
  • Labour inspectors/labour officers;
  • Recruitment firms/agencies;
  • Workers’ unions;
  • Medical staff;
  • Embassy and consulate workers;
  • Civil society organizations;
  • Church/religious leaders;
  • International CSOs;
  • Community members such as siblings, friends/peers, and relatives.

Further more, Civil Society Organizations in particular were said to be playing a supplementary to the government’s responsibility of helping victims of Human Trafficking, the following are the roles articulated in the studies by KARDS (2009) and IOM (2011).

  • Psychosocial and medical support services to Victims of Trafficking;
  • Life skills training to Victims of Trafficking;
  • Legal assistance to Victims of Trafficking;
  • Rescue and other emergency assistance;
  • Status reports on the Victims of Trafficking to appropriate authorities;
  • Family tracing and home visits;
  • Shelter and basic needs for victims;
  • Advocacy and awareness-raising on human trafficking;
  • Facilitating reunification and reintegration of victims;
  • Follow-up of reintegrated victims

The above situation forms the basis of the argument that almost all organizations have been dealing with an isolated aspect of the whole problem of Human Trafficking and hence calling for joint efforts for successful movement amongst Counter Human Trafficking organizations in East Africa but in also in the whole world if possible since the problem is becoming a global phenomenon. This means that social networking has much relevance for organizations so that they are capable of assisting one another in dealing with the issue of Human Trafficking in its totality and not just in isolated pieces of working as demonstrated above.

How can Social Networking occur among Organizations in dealing with Human Trafficking happen?

There are multiple ways in which social networking can be installed amongst organizations addressing Human Trafficking. The processes can take various forms and mechanisms depending on the existing relations on the ground. However there some of loopholes which could be used as entry points to forge relationships among organizations for counter Human Trafficking in East Africa.

Forging of formal partnership or coalition can help organizations dealing with Human Trafficking to be forging social networks or even forming informal coalitions to work together cross the East African region and beyond.

Having at-least regional events once or twice a year also stands a great potential for forging social network among those dealing with Human trafficking both organizationally and as individual activists working in the field makes things much more easy because they would work complimenting one another. Organization needs to discuss and come up with calendar of activities putting harmonizing and synergizing efforts.

Counter Human Trafficking organizations all over East Africa have the potential of establishing an annual update report whereby even dealer in the filed would share what is happening on his/her side. This will simplify looking for one another knowingly what one is doing somewhere leading into forged social networks that in turn collectively helps in achieving the goals.

In addition to that technology has made things much more effective and efficient. Organizations dealing with Human Trafficking in East Africa can explore the opportunity of online networking whereby establishes channels of communication such yahoo groups, face books, pages and twitter as well as blogs could be used to connect people for sharing information and materials amongst organizations dealing with Human Trafficking. Those are powerful connecting instruments in the current modern world and they are much more efficient than any other forms of social networking.


Instituting social networking among Counter Human Trafficking Organizations in East Africa needs to think beyond the box in two dimensions, one is the regional scope and second is the on operational framework. In terms of regional scope, efforts to forge social networking should look at the problem of Human Trafficking as a global phenomenon and not regional, this does not in anyway look down on the efforts to forge social networking among practitioners in East Africa but the intention is to broaden our thinking on how to install joint efforts in East Africa but also globally for best dealing the issue of Human Trafficking.

In terms of operational framework, Organizations counteracting Human Trafficking should see best ways possible to integrate other institutions bearing in mind that development can not be a one man show. There is a need to lobby for other organizations which do not have Human Trafficking as one of the areas to address to come on board since Human Trafficking is crosscutting issue if critically approached. Coalitions networks of socializing agencies such as religious institutions, learning institutions, and pear groups, Coalitions connecting Civil Society Organizations, women organizations networking, Youth Organization Coalitions and many others should also be integrated when we think of social networking towards successful counter Human Trafficking movements.

Connection initiatives to counter human trafficking with the media which has becoming a powerful tool for socialization in this 21st century, it would work more easily for social networking amongst Organizations dealing with the problem but with other stakeholders. Joint efforts could be formed with coalition of media houses for instance the Tanzania Media Council as well as the Jukwaa la Sanaa in Tanzania for awareness raising on Human Trafficking, the could be done all over the region (EAC) with regard to the concern their might be media forum connection East Africa.


1. Durkheim,      Emile (1893). The Division of Labor in Society, New York: Free Press. USA

2. IOM      (2008), Human Trafficking in East Africa: Research Assessment and Baseline      Information in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi, International Organization      for Migration (IOM) ,Geneva, Switzerland.

4. KARDS. (2009) Human Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children in East Africa available online here

3. Simmel,      Georg (1908). Soziologie, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.

4. Tönnies,      Ferdinand (1887). Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Leipzig: Fues’s Verlag.      (Translated, 1957 by Charles Price Loomis as Community and Society, East Lansing: Michigan State University      Press, USA.

5. Tonny      Odera and R. L. Malinowski (2011), Guidelines for Assisting Victims of      Human Trafficking in the East Africa Region, International Organization      for Migration(IOM) ,Geneva, Switzerland. Available online here

6. Wasserman,      Stanley; Faust, Katherine (1994). “Social Network Analysis in the      Social and Behavioral Sciences”. Social Network Analysis: Methods and      Applications. Cambridge University Press, USA.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: