My experience in the last number of years in Kenya and the United States has made me want to play a more proactive role in gender issues in Ireland and it is for this reason I wanted to write for the The Women’s Lives Pages, submitted by NCCWN – Donegal Women’s Network to the Donegal Democrat. Writing an article is not going to change the world but I feel it can influence opinion and make people think differently about an issue and gender is one which men tend not too speak about. The world is becoming more unequal in many aspects but especially in terms of gender. But now there is a chance to really push for equality and fairness for people of all genders and backgrounds. Women’s Lives was a perfect platform to share my ideas and experience.
Last year I had an amazing experience which gave me mixed feelings of astonishment and hope. On June 2, 2017 I flew into Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. I had a six month contract to work with a local NGO called HAART Kenya. The goal off HAART is to eradicate human trafficking in Kenya and further afield. Kenya is one of the more developed African nations. Yet, one of the biggest issue it faces today is the issue of human trafficking. This experience inspired me to develop my own blog focusing on issues of trafficking and conflict which can be found at jimfat7.wordpress.com.
The United Nations defines human trafficking 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 over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
Forced labour and child marriage have always been huge issues in Kenya and a government which is unwilling to engage with local NGO’s who tackle these issues head on has not helped the situation. To use a cliche, seeing the issue up close and in person was quite an eye opener but it is good to know that there are great people working hard on the issue. Advocacy and awareness raising is at the core of the work and I feel that changes are now starting to take place – but not quickly enough. More can be done in Ireland surrounding the issue too.
I do feel that more men can be involved and outspoken on such issues as we have seen that the “developed” world is also effected, including Ireland. Whether its unequal pay or the sexual harassment reports which have snowballed and taken Hollywood by storm recently it has shown just how deeply engrained gender inequality is in western society too. My experience has shown me exploitation is not strictly happening in one location – it can happen anywhere.
Need more Men to speak out.
From my time in Kenya it is clear to me that gender plays a huge role in the exploitation of women at home and abroad. For the most part I feel unless men can be more aware about the implications of their actions and treatment of women, which ultimately drives the supply for women and or/children to be trafficked for a number of reasons. Only then it can reduce the demand. Culturally, stereotypical views of gender roles must be challenged by both women; if not more importantly by men, in order for the message to resonate which is that – there is no price on the human right of any women or man.
It is important to realise human trafficking is not an African or Middle Eastern problem. Its is a global problem and can happen anywhere at any time; where the weak and vulnerable are manipulated by criminal individuals or groups. It is estimated that over 20 million people are victims of some kind of forced labour and it is easy to see why when annual profits amount to $150 billion globally. People may be unaware that The Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 showed the amount of victims of trafficking in our small country has significantly grown from 78 in 2015 to 95 in 2016. If just one more man can speak out about the issue of human trafficking or gender inequality in Donegal who knows, maybe it will create a much more positive snowball effect in Ireland for the better.