Great Collaboration in Spreading Awareness Against Human Trafficking in Kenya

Story by Julius Mwangi

Pictures by Bernard Muhia

Bernard Muhia of Kenya Blue Hearts Grassroots Initiative (KBHGI) poses with Sofia Rajab of  The Cradle outside Kenya National Theatre (KNT). The Cradle Children’s Foundation helped in sponsoring  the play.

On 24th March 2012 the play Blue Heart: Joy’s story was finally performed at the Kenya National Theatre (KNT) by the Kenya Blue Hearts Grassroots initiative (KBGHI). This success was achieved mainly as a collaborative efforts between The Cradle Children’s Foundation, (KBHGI), Consolation East Africa (CEA) and Koinonia Advisory Research and Development Service (KARDS) amongst various actors working to address the problem of human Trafficking in Kenya.

One of the many sad scenes: A man grabs Joy forcefully after purchasing her for sexual exploitation

Some scenes of  Blue Hearts: Joy’s Story had earlier been performed in many schools of Nairobi including Amani Precious Blood Primary School and Topmark High School in Riruta and Kawangware areas, Mutuini Educational Center, Braeburn High School and St Hanna High School and other institutions. The KBGHI is an ambitious artistic project that aims to spread awareness against human trafficking in Kenya and possibly East Africa.

School children reading some of the educational materials and posters about human trafficking.

The play was written by Luiz Nzomo a talented playwright. It mixes drama, songs, dances, drumbeats, story telling, moments of reflection and poetry.   The play is about a young orphan girl placed under the care of her aunt. The girl is bright and performs quite well in school. As days pass the aunt experiences fatigue of taking care of Joy… this fatigue is expressed in the form of lack of appreciation and aloofness to joy. The aunt expresses the fact that Joy needs to help her in her business. Joy accepts and mixes both school and helping her aunt to the detriment of her school performance. Joy’s problems do not end there she is later sold into slavery by her aunt and later she becomes a sex slave. Hence each new day to Joy, becomes a new  experience a fresh trauma. The Joy’s story continues where she gets HIV and becomes a drug addict sinking deeper into a sad and miserable life. The poems were made in such a way to take the audience through Joy’s internal struggle, unearthing the sad part of her emotions.

Students awaiting to enter the theatre

The audience is made to reflect on how many other innocent children are subjected to such horrible and miserable life. In order to help the audience out of a deep melancholy the dancers creatively make cheerful coordinated movements that are  creative, magnificent and lovely. The whole drama is a combination of intellect, art and genius.

Politician Brian Weke had also graced the show as part of the audience.

KBGHI will have another performance at KNT in November after the third Nairobi Counter Human Trafficking Symposium. They also intend to take this play in Mombasa and other areas in Kenya in their ambitious awareness campaign against human Trafficking.  Bringing the play to KNT, shows that collaboration amongst actors can help in spreading awareness far and wide. From the play we find that there are many needs that the victims of human trafficking require in order to be able to reintegrate well after their ordeal. Hence prevention is better than cure. On the other hand there is need to educate the masses on procedural law as far as human trafficking is concerned.

Part of the cast after the play A Blue Heart Joy’s Story. From Right, Viona Wamuyu Waweru the poet, Jecinta Wariara, Raphael Oduor, Evans Odongo, Saida and Benta Anyango.— at Kenya National Theatre.

Lastly, the problem of human trafficking remains enigmatic because of lack of quality data and documentation; organizations therefore would need to be very creative. These point was stressed by Sophia the Executive Director of The Cradle and Paul Kisolo the executive director of KARDS.

The show attracted a full house.

In the video below Rafiki Mwafrika have released a new song entitled “Hauwezi Kunitisha we Shetani!


Sad Ugandan Girls Story of Enslavement for sex

Find original article in the Daily Nation of 24th March 2012 here

Sitting at a table in a run-down bar on the edge of Ugandan capital Kampala, Stella Kobusingye stares into the distance as she recalls the tangle of lies and deceit that led to her sex-slavery ordeal.

Struggling to support her young son and sickly mother with the income from a small shop, last year Kobusingye heard about a job opportunity earning $800 a month working at a Ugandan-owned boutique in Malaysia.

After double- and then triple-checking that the job seemed genuine, Kobusingye sold her shop, paid for a passport and bought a visa for China, where middlemen told her she needed transit, before being handed a ticket and boarding a plane.

But when she arrived in China, she was met by a Ugandan woman, taken to a hotel where scores of other Ugandan girls were staying and told she now owed $7,000 for the airfare.

“There were no jobs there, they had lied to me — the only thing they had taken me there for was prostitution,” Kobusingye, who asked for her name to be changed, told AFP.

That night, a Nigerian man knocked on the door and said he had paid to have sex with her. Kept prisoner in her hotel room and with her passport taken away, for the next few weeks Kobusingye was forced — sometimes brutally — to sleep with up to five Nigerian men each night.

To scare her into silence, Kobusingye says her captors took her to a Ugandan witchdoctor there who used her fingernails and pubic hair to perform rituals.

Kobusingye’s story is typical of a growing number of young and vulnerable Ugandan women whom officials say are being duped into travelling abroad — particularly to countries in the Far East and Middle East — and then forced into prostitution.

In a country with massive unemployment and few opportunities, posters in shopping malls around Kampala advertise opportunities for well-paying jobs or studies abroad.

It is almost impossible to say how many Ugandan girls have been trafficked abroad but officials estimate in Malaysia alone — a country with visa-free travel for Ugandans and growing economic ties — there are currently about 600 Ugandan women in forced prostitution.

There are no figures available for the number of trafficked women in China.

During a recent visit to Kampala, Hajah Noraihan, a Malaysian working as Uganda’s honorary consul in Kuala Lumpur, flicked through a series of horrifying pictures to show what happens to the girls who refuse — the face of a young woman thrown from a third-floor balcony, the body of another brutally murdered on a bedroom floor.

In the past two years, at least three Ugandan girls have been killed in Malaysia, she said.

Since late last year, Malaysian police have cracked down on the prostitution rings. In a single raid in October, 21 Ugandan women were discovered at just one location and there are around 60 currently being detained by Malaysian authorities.

With the help of the International Organisation for Migration, in the past five months 14 girls have been brought back to Uganda, Noraihan says.

Now Ms Noraihan, a native of Kuala Lumpur, is pressing authorities in Uganda to deal with the problem at its source.

“We really need to see action on this, not just talk, not just reports. We need to see action on it and now,” she says.

That pressure seems to be paying off.

Although several of those suspected of trafficking girls to Malaysia have already been arrested, critics say authorities have been sluggish or too poorly funded and trained to effectively crack down on those behind the rings.

Now though, officials from the immigration department to law enforcement agencies and presidential advisers have started meeting on the issue and a group of lawmakers is pushing to visit Malaysia to investigate further.

But public awareness of the threat remains perilously low and the trafficking rings are highly organised and increasingly sophisticated, said Asan Kasingye, director of the Interpol office in Kampala.

“The criminals, these international rings, they are also working against us. Instead of taking 10 girls, they might take one a week and if you go to the airport and there is a person going to Malaysia she will have documents saying she is going for studies,” Kasingye said.

Uganda is just one of many sub-Saharan countries affected by sex trafficking. Other countries affected include South Africa, Nigeria, Malawi, Cape Verde, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Zambia.

After attempting to find a way to flee China, Kobusingye’s captors sent her to Malaysia, where they thought it would be easier to keep her.

But at Kuala Lumpur airport, immigration officials stopped Kobusingye. During several months in detention there she had a miscarriage.

Then she was told she had been infected with HIV.

Kobusingye was eventually sent back to Uganda with assistance from the International Organisation for Migration and the Malaysian consul.

Now she is trying to rebuild her life and start up a second-hand clothes shop. (AFP)

A Blue Heart, Joy’s Story at KNT… Get your Tickets Early

The Kenya Blue Heart Grassroots initiative will be staging “A Blue Heart; Joy’s Story on 24th at the Kenya National Theatre. For reservations kindly see the poster below:

 Follow Bwana Mdogo Arts and other artists against human trafficking by liking their facebook page. Artists sharing this passion too are welcome to join in.

Join the struggle against human trafficking!!

By Mike Mungai (Bwana Mdogo)

The blue heart campaign is a new  initiative against human trafficking.  All can join it and contribute to it in their own ordinary ways.

Students and members of the community in Riruta Satelite, Nairobi united  against human trafficking during the world clean up day down.

Simple activities can be used to get the counter human trafficking message to the society in simple ways

Let us be united against human trafficking. Let us spread this message far and wide! REG uses days such as the World Clean Up day to spread this message.

Self and cultural alienation is an enemy of civilization

By  Muko Ochanda

“I called my first born Nyerere, because Nyerere … helped me to think as an African. … also from the religious point of … view. …. As an African I could see the value in … the religious practices of my people. Mainstream religions dismissed them as devilish (shaitan). This dismissals always made me unsatisfied and I lacked equilibrium between my soul and my beliefs.”

Exposure to Nyerere’s writings made Kuwa to believe in the African spirituality. It made him see the difference between being an African and being an Arab, despite the fact that he had been made to believe that being an Arab was superior than being a Nuba, African. He later admitted that he was wrong all along as he had always been an African from the Nuba Mountains. On the realization of his African-ness, he started lamenting that the educated African in the Nuba has little regard for himself because of being an African. Other ways of life and religion had made him disregard his cultures and hence he or she distances him or herself from it. These enlightened Africans also had no regard at all for their birth place. This inferiority complex makes them ashamed to be called an African or Nuba for that matter.

Yousif found out that there were several things in the African that militated against him or her such as tribalism which made them have little regard for people from other tribes; religion which in essence was an imported phenomenon and had consumed the African mindset to downgrade his own customs instead of enriching them; corruption that was in essence contributing to lopsided distributive justice towards those who could pay; politics which are not driven by higher level ideals; poor self image which made the African see that he was a lesser being in front the people of other races, this was also extended towards seeing the other Africans too as being lesser beings; Africans are also a subject of study by people of other races and not so much the African themselves. These studies hence do not delve deeper to study the essence of the African and to help the African society understand itself fully. Yousif was indignant of the high class Africans who only wanted to be associated with Arabs or other races while looking down upon their own communities and running away from it. This attitude meant that the educated Africans’ role in transforming the value system of the village and peasant African communities was watered down by their lack of self regard which made them disregard their birth places.

Lastly Yousif advices the Africans and the Nuba not to be too submissive to other cultures. Openness to other cultures does not mean blind sublimation in them. In this case Yousif seems to appeal to the process of inculturation which helps to avoid cultural confusion and alienation in the fast evolving modern society. There is need for care in choosing what corresponds to the African culture and what can enrich it while rejecting what diminishes the value of the African culture. Inculturation  includes two dimensions: on the one hand it is the intimate transformation of the authentic cultural values through their integration with other value systems and on the other is the insertion of other value systems in the various African cultures[1].

Hence culture is the soul of a people. It should not be sold, replaced or destroyed but transformed. This soul is the vehicle of wisdom and is a precious source of material for inspiration in building a civilization. Hence, what would it benefit a man or a woman if he or she got the whole world and lost his own soul?[2] Nothing! With this soul (culture) intact in the African , they will slowly work towards full human dignity, acquire self confidence, be helpful to their neighbours and lastly work towards creating their wealth in a honest and just way; what Yousif calls “I shall build my civilization.” Hence, no matter how an African pretends to be someone else, by way of life, appearance or adoption of other cultures, in the long run he or she remains an African. A belief in the Africanness therefore is a great asset towards building the African civilization and richness. It is the tool that will assist Africa to avoid being the most trivialized continent in the whole world and which will make Africans think in terms of investing there in.

Africans need to be attracted to Africa and not to run away from it.

[1] Pope John Paul II (2000), Ecclesia in Africa. Holy See.

[2] Ibid

Nasihi Tuache Ukatili Dhidi ya Binadamu Wenzetu

Story by Joy Achieng, St. Hannah High School

Ulanguzi wa binadamu ni nini? Hii ni nyendo au wendaji wa watu au kuwateka nyara bila idhini yao au kama hawafahamu. Hii si mara ya kwanza tunaskia kuhusu haya. Wengi wetu tumeyasikia haya lakini kupuuzilia na kuyatupa mambo haya katika kaburi la sahau. Mambo haya yanatendeka haswa katika bara la Afrika. Njia nazo ni nyingi kama huko pwani, njia ni mzomzo. Watu hawa wanatolewa shimoni huko Mombasa, Kenya, wakipelekwa Pemba na Pangani nchini Tanzania halafu Msumbiji kasha Afrika kusini. Jambo la kushtusha ni kuwa , wanawake wengine wanawauza wasichana kutoka Tanzania mpaka Lubumbashi ama Kisangani humo Demokrasia ya Kongo na wazungu kuwanunua.

Sababu zinazochangia ulanguzi wa binadamu katika bara la Afrika ni, kwanza, umaskini na ukosefu wa kazi. Umaskini na ukosefu wa kazi unawatia motisha waja hawa ili angalau wapate cha kuwalisha  wanao. Wanawake na wasichana wanafanywa kuwa na hadhi ndogo katika jamii. Hii inaongeza chanzo cha wanawake na wasichana kudhulumiwa. Vita barani Afrika navyo , vinachangia sana wana wenye umri mdogo kurutika katika mashirika ya askari wahalifu, ambao kazi yao ni kuua. Sababu nyingine nazo ni masomo kukosekana, ufisadi na ukahaba katika utalii.

Kwa nini binadamu mwenye akili timamu amfanyie hivi binadamu mwenzake au mwana mwenye umri sawia na mwanawe? Sababu ni wazi kama pengo. Fedha , pesa mabunda ya noti. Hii ndiyo sababu kuu ya utendaji huu.  Binadamu ametambulika kutaka kuwa lodi mwenye mali kama njugu. Binadamu wengi walipewa vyuma badala ya mioyo kwa sababu hawana huruma hata

Ningependekeza suluhisho mbalimbali ili maarifa kuhusu ulanguzi wa binadamu uenee katika pembe zote za dunia. Ningependa, shirika kadha wa kadha lijitokeze ili liwapiganie watu wanaokumbwa na balaa hii. Wasichana kwa wanawake. Wavulana kwa wazee. Wote watendewe haki na usawa wa jinsia uzingatiwe. Wengi wetu tuwatembelee wahusika walio dhulumiwa na tuwaletee habari hii umma. Kwa kufanya hivi, itawafanya wengi wajue na wawe waangalifu na kuripoti wakiona mambo si mrama. Katika boda za nchi, usalama uimarishwe na uwe wa hali ya juu. Polisi wafisadi waondolewe kwenye eneo hilo na polisi wa wananchi wapewe cheo hicho. Vilevile, viongozi wa nchi ambayo wanajishugulisha na uhalifu huu, waondolewe katika vyeo vyao. Suluhisho la mwisho ni kuwaelimisha watu hawa.

Mashirika yaliyojishugulisha, naomba yajikaze kisabuni ili watu hawa wasiendelee kuteseka nchini kwao. Viongozi wa nchi hizi pia ningewaomba wajaribu kukomesha visa hivi, ili viache kuwa tatizo barani Afrika. Viongozi tena waziweke sheria ambayo inasaidia mashirika kutekeleza jukumu lao. Tukiwa na serikali ambayo inatia motisha mashirika hayo, basi tujue tunasonga mbele kama jeshi la wokovu.

Mbali na mashirika na serikali, ningependa sana watu, wahanga na waja ambao hawajakumbwa na haya, wote tuungane pamoja ili tuukomeshe ulanguzi wa watu. Tuuzidishe usawa wa jinsia na tupendane kama ndugu wenye damu moja au kuzaliwa na mama moja. Umoja ni nguvu na utengano ni udhalifu. Huu uwe wito wetu daima. Mola mwenye Baraka zisizo na kifani, atatubariki na kutunyeshea mvua za Baraka siku zote.


This story is part of the campaign by Fern Poetry to spread counter trafficking awareness through poetry. Once the poem campaign in finished, students create their own poems or stories depending on how they received the CTIP message.