Kenyans in Saudi to get better working conditions

Nation September 25  2012 

Kenyans headed to Saudi Arabia for jobs could soon find better working conditions and less harassment by their employers.

A framework on how to manage the transfer of labour from the country to the Asian country is in the offing.

The Saudi Arabian government is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Kenyan government on  the intricate issue of labour work force.

The memorandum will also be signed alongside another one on tourism, according to Saudi Arabian ambassador to Kenya Mr Ghorm Malhan.

Hundreds of jobless Kenyans have found themselves in hostile territory when they leave the country for  Saudi Arabia after being lured by unscrupulous agencies.

Most of them seeking unskilled jobs have been abused and locked up in highly protected homes and only manage to escape and return home as refugees.

The MOU is expected to address these issues and ensure a fair and acceptable system where Kenyans will be able to seek legitimate jobs in the oil-rich country.

Mr Malhan further said Saudi Arabia was working on more economically viable trade partnerships with the country.

“We are working on modalities to export livestock from Kenya to our country,” Mr Malhan said.

The ambassador was addressing guests during celebrations of the Saudi Arabian National Day at the Laico Regency Hotel Monday night.

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Challenges of decriminalising sex work

East Africa Standard By Beverline Ongaro June 5 2012

A Kenya National Commission on Human Rights report ‘Realising sexual and reproductive right; a reality or a myth’ had interesting findings and recommendations on sex workers that has unfortunately not generated debate it deserves; rather the focus especially, in the media has been on same-sex relations.

The report’s recommendations in relation to sex workers are a contradiction of some sort and will make eunuch the efforts to the safeguard of the dignity of sex workers. On one hand, the report recommends decriminalisation and regulation of voluntary sex work for men and women to make the practice safe for the sex workers and clients.

On the other hand, it calls for implementation of a counter-trafficking law to be implemented fully to eradicate instances of forced sex work.

The fact that these recommendations were made side by side demonstrates that there is no dialectical appreciation of how sex work and human trafficking for sexual exploitation are almost intrinsically linked. Human trafficking has become unfortunate social reality that is fuelled by sex work. This is on account it is not possible to fully regulate and ensure sex work is safe.

How feasible is it to differentiate forced and voluntary sex? Persons with licences to permit sex work within in their premises would just easily engage in human trafficking for sexual exploitation by stating that all women and men in their premises work there voluntary.

This leads to the question as to whether the booths should be installed with surveillance cameras including when sex workers are serving clients and hence raises the concern on right to privacy for both of them.

In other jurisdictions, notably Amsterdam with its ‘progressive’ laws have had to contend with these concerns especially after noting that sex work is purveyor to trafficking for sexual exploitation. Most of the workers had been trafficked and were abused even within booths with installed cameras.

And the demand side?

There were reported incidents of sex workers subjected to inhumane treatment. These forlorn states of affairs have been discussed by various stakeholders at international and regional levels. Notably culminating to a communiqué, “Global Efforts to Eradicate Violence and Discrimination against Women and Girls: A Discussion in Combating Sex Trafficking in Eastern Africa September 2009 in Nairobi” that was drawn by civil society organisations speared headed by Equality Nown.

The communiqué in line with singular observation and approach by human rights activists advocates for enactment and implementation of laws that criminalise the ‘customers’ to deal with the demand side of prostitution rather than simple blanket decriminalisation and regulation of prostitution. It would have been expected that Commission could have at least moved towards this direction.

Its quest for safe practice of sex workers will remain a Chimera for it failed to address how discrimination and inhumane treatment of sex workers is fuelled by the nomenclature-prostitution: the prevailing perception is that prostitutes evoke inhumane treatment towards them.

This invariably determines whether sex workers have access to reproductive health services from a society that perceives them as ignoble persons.

The report classified sex workers as sex minorities without analysing the plight of sex workers that would classify them as such. This makes the quest for freedom from discrimination and equality of sex worker to be pseudo- equality.

There is need to re-examine the plight of sex workers in prevailing local, regional and international settings, otherwise human rights abuses and violations will continue.

Standard 20th June: No one should be coerced into prostitution

There are some men and women who choose to work as sex workers. And there are those voices actively lobbying for Government to legalise it, ostensibly to “cut out the middlemen” to reduce slavery and child prostitution since all sex workers will be identifiable by the authorities. But that is not our focus today.

Those not forced into prostitution find themselves in the vice because they believe it is the only thing they have of value. They claim that they are the ones in control, or that it is a mere physical act.

That should not be confused with freedom of choice. It is a severe lack of self-esteem. Prostitution is heartbreaking and degrading, and is forced sexual slavery, for no right thinking individual wants to hawk their body.

In this regard, at the risk of being seen to be part of the enlightened lot that would like prostitution legalised, we shall defend the right of anyone to choose prostitution, but criminalise those forcing anyone into such bondage.

To avoid sub judice of a recent court case where a parent “leased out” her daughter to a paedophile, we can still cite daily reports of defilement of minors, and human trafficking for purposes of profit.

Our laws are clearly against these practices but as long as long as men are allowed to think they should access sexual services for the most competitive price they can negotiate, it will be hard to stamp out suppliers seeking to service this demand.

Debase their dignity

We must, however, draw the line where adults take advantage of children for self-gratification and in blatant disregard of their human rights, debase their dignity, leave them diseased, pregnant, out-of-school, bruised and psychologically traumatised.

Perhaps, legislation should be amended to hand out stiffer sentencing to offenders. Silence is akin to collusion and paints us as a morally deficient generation that could not stand up for the future citizens of this brave new world.

Kenya Government Halts Domestic Workers Recruitment to Middle East over Mis-Treatments

Published by East African Standard on 22nd June 2012 by Joylene Sing’oei

The Government has suspended recruitment and export of domestic workers to Middle East following several complaints of harassment by employers.

In a press statement released Friday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political and Diplomatic Secretary Patrick Wamoto said many Kenyans seeking employment in the Middle East as domestic workers especially housekeepers and maids have ended up in distress.

Wamoto added that the complains the ministry receive range from mistreatment, lack of payment of salaries, overwork, denial of food and lack of communication with their relatives in Kenya.

“The Government wishes to reiterate its commitment to the protection and welfare of all citizens, including those outside the country. We are working on a mechanism, including but not limited to, vetting of all recruitment agents afresh and signing of Labour frameworks Agreement with various countries to address some of the concerns raised by the distressed Kenyans in the Middle East”, read part of the Statement.

Most of the Kenyan migrants to Middle East earn their livelihoods as drivers, technicians, salesmen, security guards, engineers, accountants, bankers and domestic workers.

Cases of Kenyans being abused and even killed in Saudi Arabia have been on the increase.

As the quest for working abroad heightens for many skilled and semi-skilled Kenyans, only a handful know the implications of working in countries where labour laws are hardly emphasised.

Some have even ignored media reports of gross brutality toward foreign labourers in some countries and gone ahead to embark on trips abroad, expecting greener pastures only to undergo modern-day slavery.

A Sad Story from a Victim of Human Trafficking from Saudi Arabia

Story by Nation 9th April 2012

Another victim of human-trafficking, who was lured to Saudi Arabia with promises of a well-paying job, returned home early this week with tales of tribulations and suffering.

 Ms Jane Wanjiku narrated to the Nation how her Saudi Arabian boss turned her into a slave by forcing her to work for long hours without a break and subjecting her to inhuman treatment.

Ms Wanjiku first heard of well-paying job opportunities in Saudi Arabia through a friend, who introduced her to agents in Nairobi. A deal was struck for Ms Wanjiku to take up a job as a caretaker for a disabled child.

Repay the expenses

Two weeks after leaving Nairobi for Saudi last December 28, she found the conditions unbearable but her boss rejected her plea to return home on grounds that she had to repay the expenses they had incurred on her.

“I wanted to come back because it was too much for me but they refused. I spoke to the agent and they took me to another home”, the 47-year-old told the Nation on Monday.

Although she thought the move would bring reprieve, it turned out to be a plunge from the frying pan to the fire.

She said her hopes crushed upon realisation that food was laced with drugs just like in her previous work place. Matters became even worse because she was forced to eat the food.

“They urged me to eat, saying it was important for my health but I realised the food was laced with drugs. I had no option and ate a little food,” the mother of four said.

She claimed her food was always served from a different tray which made her suspect a sinister motive.

She then sought the help of a local woman for interpretations of Arabic, which her employer’s family spoke and realised they intended to kill her.

“The woman told me they wanted to kill me because I was too inquisitive. They thought I would narrate my tribulations and that could possibly spoil their market,” Ms Wanjiku claimed.

It is for that reason that she believes her life is still in danger after unknown people allegedly trailed her on Sunday upon arrival back to Kenya.

But when contacted, Al-Kaki Enterprises & Travel manager Julius Kimemia (the agents recruiting the domestic workers) denied the allegations, saying she was flown back to the country purely on medical grounds.

“I talked to the woman yesterday (Sunday) when she was still at the airport and she said she was unwell. I don’t have any information regarding those claims, but we will look into them,” Mr Kimemia told the Nation on phone.

 

 

But even as Mr Kimemia insisted Ms Wanjiku was never assaulted, she revealed bruises and injuries on her body to indicate that she had been tortured.

 Ms Wanjiku claimed to have become unconscious for several hours one day after being forced to eat food laced with drugs only to wake up with pain in her stomach. She said her health has deteriorated since.

But the worst experience for Ms Wanjiku was when she was locked up in a roof-less room without food for three days.

“That is when I contemplated committing suicide. I prayed to God for it was all I could do,” she said. She jumped through a small window into the next building from where police took her to hospital. It was while at the hospital that the host family coordinated her return journey.

New Study on Law and Child Labour in Kenya

By Philip Wairire,  AFCiC Kenya. For the full report  follow the following link Rapid assessment of working Children in Thika final report

ILO considers that “child labour” is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”. In similar terms, the UN Convention provides that child labour is any form of work that violates the four basic rights of children, namely survival, development, participation and protection.

Any work that threatens these rights is considered child labour and ought not be tolerated.

Action for Children in Conflict (AfCIC) has been conducting a study on the effectiveness of Kenyan law in curbing child labour in Kenya since 2007 using data collected around Thika Municipality.  The study is entitled “making the law work for children: A Case Study of Child Labour in Kenya. The main aim of the study is to examine the gap between the present legislative environment and the reality. This study will be useful to children organizations and also policy makers.

The preliminary work of this study was presented at the counter trafficking symposium for the faith based and grassroots organizations organized by Consolation East Africa in Nairobi on November 23rd 2011.

The AfCIC study has highlighted the challenges pertaining the interpretation of what constitutes child labour both locally and internationally.  That there is no universally acceptable definition on this area. However what is usually considered in the discourses of child labour are dimensions such as hazard, work effects and degree of involvement. The work involved therefore should not be harmful to the physical, emotional and mental development;  or one that denies children of their basic rights, the enjoyment of their childhood, potential and dignity.

The study sheds light on the international and local legal instruments available to protect children against labour exploitation. The international instruments are:

  • ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age for starting work (1973). This convention was ratified by Kenya in 1979.

ILO 138 defines “child labour” as: any work performed by a child under the age of twelve; any work other than “light” work undertaken by children aged twelve to fourteen; and “hazardous” work by children aged fifteen to seventeen.

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990) which was ratified by the Kenyan government in 1990.

The UN Convention defines a “child” as “below the age of eighteen years”. It stipulates in Article 32 that the child is to be protected from “economic exploitation” and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

  • ILO convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour ratified in 2001 and lastly

ILO 182 calls on states to take immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the “worst forms” of child labour. These are specified to include:  (a) all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, such as child trafficking, forced labour and forced recruitment into armed conflict; (b) using a child for prostitution or pornography; (c) use of children in illicit activities, for example, drugs; and (d) “hazardous” work.

  • ILO convention 184 on safety and health in Agriculture.

It specifies, at Article 16, that “the minimum age for assignment to work in agriculture which by nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to harm the safety and health of young persons shall not be less than 18 years”.

Kenya has also developed various  local instruments instruments to domesticate the international  conventions. Hence children are protected by:

  • The 2010 Constitution of the Republic of Kenya

Section 53 protects children from exploitative labour and promotes the best interest of the child.

  • Children Act of 2001

Section 10 protects children from economic exploitation that interferes with their education and sets the minimum year for labour as 16.

  • Employment Act of 2007

Part VII of the Employment Act makes  provisions on the on “Protection of the Child” (sections 52 to 65). However, it bears note that there are major contradictions as between this Act and the Children’s Act as to the age at which children should be employed. For one, while the Employment Act [sec 56 (2)] allows for children of between the age of 13 and 16 to be engaged in light work, the Children’s Act holds that only children above the age of 16 should be employed. The Act allows anyone to lodge a complaint if s/he witnesses the worst forms of child labour.

Some of the most important findings of the study are:

1. Kenya does not have up to date statistics on the extent of child labour in the country. The statistics available are those of 2002 by the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (“IPEC”) and the govenment survey of 2005/6. It is important that data is created so as it may be possible to understand the scale and scope of the problem in order to encourage effective interventions.

2. The domestic legistaltion has gone to a great extents to safeguard the welfare of the children. However acording to the reality, child labour is still very rampant in Kenya. Hence bringing about the need to bridge the law and the reality.

3. Both international documents and local documents have no single accepted definition of child labour. In Kenya while the Children Act of 2001 sets the minimum age at 16, the Employment Act sets it at 13. Hence bringing about the need for the Kenyan courts to harmonize the two instruments.

4. The introduction of universal free primary education in Kenya was an important intervention against child labour. However indirect costs such as providing food to retain the children in the schools have a bearing on the success of this intervention. This calls for a multi stakeholder involvement to meet this indirect costs to make this intervention a success.

5. Policy reforms to tackle inequality and poverty such as the community development fund (CDF), local authority transfer fund (LATF) and the street family rehabilitation trust fund (SFRTF) are also positive measures introduced that will definitely help in suppressing child labour. It is important that these resources target those who need them and that the data of their impact be made available.

6. The government formed a multisectoral committee at districts and provincial levels to oversee the extents of child labour. However the study found that no such committee exists in Thika. Hence the call for a need to start such a committee.

Lastly the AfCIC study recommends a new definition to harmonize the Kenyan instruments on the definition of child labour as follow: Child labour constitutes work undertaken by children under 13 alternatively any work that is not considered light that is undertaken by children between the ages of 13 and 16. The  study however leaves the readers to make their own definition of light work by giving an example of domestic work and harmful by giving an example of mining. Also it suggests that all work given to a child should done so in due consideration of the child’s age.

Action for Children in Conflict (AFCIC) in Kenya

Access the AFCIC Site Here

Action for Children in Conflict in Kenya (AfCiC Kenya) is the leading child protection agency working in Thika District, Kenya. We are small, locally staffed, needs focused and results driven. We deliver holistic care to the most vulnerable children in Thika: street children. We ensure that they and their families are able to access educational and economic opportunities to enable them to live positive, safe lives.

Mission Statement

To provide comprehensive and sustainable educational, economic and psycho-social services to street and other acutely vulnerable children and their families in Thika District, Kenya.

Background

Thika is a rapidly growing town that represents both the benefits and challenges of urban migration and development in Kenya. Significant wealth, accumulated through both legitimate and illegitimate means, a growing middle class with access to formal, salaried employment, improved public amenities, endless construction projects live alongside unmanaged pollution, erratic and unevenly distributed utilities, increasing levels of extreme poverty, expanding, highly populated slums and occasional violent conflict and crime over lack  of access to food, employment and land.

Prolonged drought in 2009, the global recession, high inflation and endemic corruption within government and business has contributed to increasing polarization between the rich and poor in Kenya, aptly demonstrated by living conditions and daily experiences in different parts of Thika.

In 2007 there were an estimated 140,000 people living in Thika, now there are over 300,000. Population growth on this scale is difficult for any planning authority to manage.

Action for Children in Conflict has built up a strong reputation in the last 6 years for excellent services for the most vulnerable, enabling children and their families to access the opportunities available to both survive and succeed, in safety and prosperity. We are the leading child protection agency working in Thika District. When we arrived in 2003 there were over 400 street children in Thika town, and by early 2010 the number had been reduced to approximately 90.  As a result of AfCiC’s exceptional results, we have in the last year expanded more aggressively into surrounding industrial areas where street children have been gathering.

An AfCiC-led 2009 street census revealed that there are around 100 children on the streets of Thika and these surrounding areas, but the nature of those children is fluid.  For example, 59% reported living with parents or family members.  85% reported going to the street almost every day, but only 45% reported sleeping there.  Due to difficult economic conditions, there is a population of part-time street children developing in and around Thika, and AfCiC has worked to create dynamic and innovative solutions for these complicated cases, as well as for the remaining full-time street children.  As we have done with hundreds of children already, we are dedicated to helping these children return to home and school full-time, and to preventing the root-causes that send children to the streets in the first place.

Contact Details

Action for Children in Conflict in Kenya

PO Box 130, Thika, Kenya

Kenya@actionchildren.org

www.actionchildren.org

The Role of the Youth in Higher Learning Institutions in Countering Human Trafficking

Article by Njenga Kuria- Coordinator of International Movement of Catholic Students– Kenya

This symposium: Counter human trafficking symposium for the grassroots organizations in East Africa, for me is a testament of the fact that while human trafficking continues to be a growing worldwide crisis that affects us all, there is also an increasingly active global movement that is determined to put a stop to it.

Many people don’t realize how the threat of human trafficking is everywhere. It’s in the parks where children play, on the internet where they socialize and learn. We don’t realize how easily people can be tricked into giving up their rights and freedoms, or the level of suffering, torture and abuse that victims are being subjected to.

And, although, there is a clear definition of human trafficking, the lines of exploitation are so blurred between child labour, migrant labour, exploitative labour, and illegal labour and trafficking, that it can be easy to lose sight of the issue at hand.

Traffickers exploit people’s desire to lead better lives. The faces masked by human trafficking are those of young women and men trying to escape from the clutches of poverty, from the chains of abuse. They are those of innocent children – torn from their families and communities to serve in forced industrial and domestic labour, in agricultural work, and of course, in the sex industry.

What we are dealing with here, therefore, is a complex and multi-dimensional challenge – one that is linked to societal ills such as poverty, inequality and organized crime – one that for so long has been misunderstood and underestimated.

International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) is a movement for catholic students at the higher learning institutions. Our main theme is peace and for us to achieve this objective then we must combat this vice of human trafficking so that the society is at peace, human trafficking is an injustice which denies a human being freedom to perform even the least that is expected of him and these chains must be broken. In Kenya we have membership in 16 institutions mainly in public universities. IMCS has undertaken the initiative of trying to create awareness and sensitize people about this vice, An integral part of our efforts  are also dedicated to creating platforms, where young people can make their voices heard, where they can promote innovative strategies and strengthen the roots of democracy in our communities.

Our youth network members have really spread their wings: some are working hard through our Culture of Peace Program to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking in schools, universities and community centers;

My Dear Friends, The fight against human trafficking will not be won tomorrow, but every bit of progress, every step in the right direction can help to save lives.

It is only when we begin to understand how human trafficking affects our lives – how it impedes on the health and well being of our societies, how it negates the progress we have made towards gender equality, and how it raises the levels of violence and insecurity in our neighborhoods – that we become more effective at fighting it.

It is when we start seeing the faces of victims behind the statistics, to listen to their stories and acknowledge their courage that we will make it a priority in our lives to make a difference.

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