On Wednesday 26th July Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART Kenya) were delighted to have welcomed the Second Secretary; Teresa Sweeney, from the Irish Embassy in Nairobi to our shelter for victims of Human Trafficking. The Irish Embassy voiced its support in relation to working with HAART and assisting victims of trafficking in both Ireland and Kenya. Trafficking is a global problem not just an African or Asian problem.
The timing is important as research undertaken by HAART has concluded that internally displaced persons (IDPs) are much more vulnerable to trafficking in a post-election violence (PEV) period. However, we are hoping that a peaceful and credible election will develop.
HAART Kenya was delighted with the positive meeting with the Irish Embassy in Nairobi who recognises the impact that Human Trafficking is having on Kenyan society. Interestingly though, Human Trafficking is not only an issue in East Africa but rather it is a global problem. Even Ireland has been affected by the issue where the weak and vulnerable are manipulated by criminal individuals and groups. The Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 showed the amount of victims of trafficking in Ireland has significantly grown from 78 in 2015 to 95 in 2016. More broadly 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.
2017 Presidential Election
After conducting a research study after the 2013 Presidential election mentioned previously it became apparent to HAART that internally displaced persons are more vulnerable to being trafficking into forced labour, prostitution or child marriage during post-election violence. Therefore, the worry is that many people will be at risk after the 8th of August if unrest is to occur. It is for this reason that HAART seeks to establish relationships between many likeminded organisations and individuals so that there is more capacity within Kenya to deal with such issue.
Currently HAART is very thankful for its Irish partners support including Misean Cara and Volunteer Mission Movement (VMM) who provide funding and volunteer assistance to the organisation. Without the help of such organisations the work that HAART does most certainly would not be possible.
HAART is always looking to expand its network, partners and reach. The organisations field category is broad and can fall into the following areas: human rights, gender-based violence (GBV), youth work and psychological support. Thus, having many likeminded partners enabled us to continue the much needed work for the vulnerable.
On the ground HAART conducts grassroots workshops to raise awareness in vulnerable areas in Kenya reaching more than 20,000 people and in 2014 alone HAART reached more than 6,000 people. Most of the workshops take place in impoverished areas and many of the participants lack education and employment opportunities, making them vulnerable to traffickers. In addition, HAART particularly targets young people as they are more at risk of becoming victims of trafficking. Many of the workshops are held outdoors or in sheds to reduce costs for venue.
Recently, HAART conducted an evaluation that confirmed that although there were opportunities for improvements (which are being implemented), the workshops have a strong impact in the community and equip the participants with accurate knowledge of human trafficking, their rights and how to avoid being trafficked.
Additionally, HAART is currently trying to raise funds for constructing a safe house that will be dedicated to victims of human trafficking who are in need of temporary shelter. While the current shelter (pictured above) is a fantastic safe house HAART has long term plans to build its own shelter by where there can be no issue with regards to leasing a safe house.
HAART works with youths and with art projects to create new and innovative approaches to countering trafficking. From July 3 – 14 HAART facilitated the Arts To End Slavery exhibition for the third consecutive year which was another great success. The projects main goal is to bring together a number of local professional artists, photographers, musicians, poets who will shed light on the issue of human trafficking using their own medium. The exhibition is essentially a blank canvass where these artists can get the message across to the public and consequently bring awareness to trafficking of persons. This exhibition is a very creative way for artists to engage the attention of people who otherwise would not be aware of the issue in Kenya.
If you would like more information on HAART’s work please contact us through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or you can e-mail email@example.com. Alternatively, you can donate to haartkenya.org/donate.
“Another recruit reported that she was given in marriage to a jihadi who told her that as she was his gift, he could give her to his friends and colleagues. After she was passed around, and had fainted, she woke up in a strange safe house with several other women being trained for a jihadi mission. One girl refused and the instructors reported that she had been eviscerated and chopped up into several pieces.”
Human Trafficking is rife in the world today. When a country or region is devastated by intrastate or interstate conflict terrorist organisations and criminal gangs can prosper and grow to control vast areas of territory. Some examples include Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and Somalia. Governance of these regions are minimal in parts and these groups are claiming large swaths or land, money and people.
ISIS are mainly in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram largely operate in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab are located mainly in Somalia. These groups utilize the trafficking of persons and sexual violence as a way to terrorize the population but to also make an income for such groups. It is the clandestine nature of trafficking along with the current vacuum that exists in such regions as Syria and Iraq which has made the lawless region a breeding ground for the coercive movement of persons especially child brides.
Lured from the West?
According to a Hillary Rodham Clinton Law Fellow – Ashely Binetti; in 2015 there were approximately 3,400 Western fighters who joined the Islamic State in its quest for Sharia Law in the region. Interestingly, about 550 of these fighters were women. These women were lured there by the same means of exploitation that pedophiles use in online “grooming in Western countries; notably Social Media. Expert on female involvement in terrorist organisations – Mia Bloom stated “[It] is very similar in terms of platform, process, alienation of parents, [and] creating an environment of secrecy.”
Director of Inspire (womens rights ngo) – Sara Khan, goes further to say that “[the girls are] befriended online, told they’re loved, [and] showered with praise and flattery. These girls, like victims of child sexual exploitation, don’t see themselves as victims. They see themselves as girls going to be with men who genuinely love them.”
More recently, Sally Jones a British born fighter who is currently trapped in Syria since 2015 has experienced living the life of a jihadi radical; she has even recruited for ISIS. But now Sally Jones wants to get out of the situation she finds herself in. Her husband – Junaid Hussain conducted such digital operations for the group. He was killed by a drone in 2016. An anonymous Jihadist wife stated “She was crying and wants to get back to Britain but Isis is preventing her because she is now a military wife. She told me she wish to go to her country.” Currently Sally Jones is high on the list of US and UK drone targets.
In order to allow such radical group to survive for generations to come ISIS have turned to paying women for the cause. The women of ISIS are being paid (coerced) to deliver the next generation of fighters according to a report by the New York Post. For each “cub” which is born, the mother is paid $25.00 for each child per month, plus a $400 maternity bonus, and a $500 marriage bonus). As the fighting continues to rage across the Middle East and the horn of Africa it is clear that this strategic family planning incentive is to secure fighters for future generations.
It is evident that the internet is having significant effects on the reach and propaganda efforts of such terrorist groups. These female recruits are falling for the bait and lure of these men and can come from any location globally. One example highlights this when in late 2014 three teenage girls from Denver were taken into custody in Frankfurt Airport, thousands of miles away from the US. They were traveling to Syria. Later that year, another woman from the same state – Shannon Conley (19) was convicted with assisting a terrorist organization and was sentenced to four years in prison. It is with such developments that US and British Governments claim it is the reason their security departments have stepped up spying programmes on their own citizens; all illegal of course.
Life as a victim.
In Somalia and Kenya trafficking of persons is very common. The story of a girl called Faith highlights the real life experiences of being trafficking at a young age. When she was 16 years of age and approached by an elderly couple they offered her a job in Malindi on the coast of Kenya. In need of money, she took a bus along with many other people. All travelers were given water to drink; which was drugged. “When we regained consciousness, there were two men inside the room… They blindfolded us with black scarves. They raped us in that room.”
The next time Faith was drugged she woke up in an open area in a forest and was warned that if she attempted to leave she would be murdered. Out of pure fear, she could not bring herself to try to leave. The next three years were spent by Faith cooking for a number of Somali men. After becoming pregnant from being raped she had to deliver the child on her own in the forest in very dangerous circumstances. “My grandmother was a traditional midwife, so I had a little bit of knowledge… everything I was doing in that forest was alone, so I just had to get out this baby alone.”
Luckily Faith found a way out with her daughter after a traditional healer foraging for medicinal roots in the forest stumbled upon her and sent her in the right direction. As a result of living in a forest her child is finding re-integration into normal life difficult. Struggling with sleep at night unless she is outside in her mother’s arms. Unfortunately there are many victims who were not as lucky as Faith.
It is important to realize Human Trafficking is not an Islamic, Arab, African or Middle Eastern problem. Its is a global problem; where the weak and vulnerable are manipulated by criminal individuals and 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. Notably, even Ireland is effected. 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.
July 30th is UN anti-trafficking day and we ask you to share, like and comment on the issue. Shining a light on such activities may be the difference in somebody realizing they are potential victims or maybe their friends or family are at risk. Unfortunately stories such as Faiths are not uncommon in areas where there is such a disregard for the law and human rights.
By James Fahey
You can support HAART Kenya and its work today by donating here.
On the 8th of June I traveled to an undisclosed location in Kenya to visit HAART’s shelter for rescued victims of human trafficking. A few hours drive from the capital the area is quiet serene and it is a perfect setting for aiding the rehabilitation of victims of trafficking.
The shelter was opened in December 2016 when it was a much needed facility. The shelter has all the facilities for survivors to lead a healthy and safe life as long as they are residing there.
Importance of the shelter?
The shelter is very beneficial for a victims rehabilitation and re-integration back into society. By bringing a daily routine and structure into their lives it allows them to get back to normality after a very traumatic experience. For example, the shelter has a kitchen where residents can cook meals for the group each day. There is a small but expanding library so residents can practice reading and writing. It was nice to see these young people had real aspirations. Up on the wall the survivors stated their dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors, nurses and teachers. These were fantastic goals to aim for and the chances of them being pursued much more likely as a result of this shelter.
The shelter (which the location cannot be disclosed for security reasons) has a maximum capacity of 20 where female victims of trafficking can stay. Usually they are between the ages 8-18. Typically these victims are rescued from traffickers or rescued while they are in transit to their destination; often the Middle East.
HAART has a very dedicated legal team who fight to prosecute traffickers and any other people involved in the illegal trade of persons. However, it is not a cheap undertaking to keep the shelter running. HAART will always welcome any donations or second-hand items such as furniture, housing items, food or anything else which will help keep the great work continue.
According to International Organization for Migration (IOM) more than 20,000 victims are trafficked through Kenya annually from neighboring countries including Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. This is a frightening statistic considering the Kenyan Government implemented a new law which was created in 2010 to tackle the issue of trafficking. However, the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act has had very little impact and the issue remains very prevalent today. This number must be reduced.
It was quiet a shock for me to learn that with the current rate of human trafficking of females into prostitution globally, it is a much more lucrative business than drug trafficking (or any other forms of transnational criminality for that matter). US Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stated in April 2017:
“Human trafficking for sex earns more money than drug trafficking that is why there are more organised criminal gangs globally. One of the current debates is to reduce demand for sex, delegitimise purchase of sex and stop prosecutions of people who sell sex and prosecute the purchasers,”
It is with such worrying statements like that of Attorney General Lisa Madigan that the goal of raising awareness on the matter of human trafficking in Kenya and further abroad is so important. It is why HAART is dedicated to the cause. As Benjamin Franklin once said
“justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
We ask for your support today.
Saudi Arabia has long been known as one of the world richest countries due to its vast oil reserves. According to the US State Department the Middle East “constitute(s) a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” The Saudi Kingdom has utilized its vast oil wealth to make trade and bilateral-relations with its neighbors and partners. It has also become a country with a large amount of migrants where ten million (1/3) are foreigners.
Proposed agreement with Kenya.
Although Kenya is not in the Middle East (over 6,500 km away) it has a become a trading partner on good relations with Saudi Arabia. However, in recent times the Kenyan Government has come under more pressure as a direct implication of one proposed bilateral agreement.
Kenya is devising a plan with Saudi Arabia where they will make 100,000 skilled and semi-skilled workers available to go and work there in exchange for cheaper oil. The president spokesperson stated “This is about continued engagement with a key Middle East country in securing opportunities for Kenyans.”
Worryingly though, for many years, Saudi Arabia has been a destination for a large number of female Kenyans attracted by the dream of a great job and lifestyle in another prosperous country. But in the not so distant past Kenyan domestic workers have gone missing in Saudi Arabia which is of great concern considering the proposed deal.
Saudi Arabia’s restrictive kafala (visa-sponsorship) system, which ties migrant workers’ legal residency to their employers, grants employers’ excessive power over workers and facilitates abuse.
Saudi Arabia is well known as a nation with a poor record on human rights. Even though the Saudi Government created 38 amendments to the Labor Law which went into effect in 2015, domestic workers – mostly migrant women who work in family homes, are still excluded from such enforcement (Human Rights Watch). Currently there is approximately 85,000 and 100,000 Kenyans working in Saudi Arabia. 70 per cent of these are domestic workers meaning they are not protected by the new labor laws. The lure of a new and prosperous life can still be more appealing to many Kenyans even though they will have few rights while they are working there.
Genuine action needs to be taken by the Saudi Government to protect migrants who come and contribute to its economy. The same can be said for the Kenyan Government as it will happily send migrant workers in the 1000’s if the price of crude remains low. If the Kenyan anti-trafficking law (set up in 2010) is anything to go by, migrants protection will remain bleak both home an abroad for the coming years. Failure to prosecute the traffickers has disappointed many who were originally pleased with the implementation of the law. To be taken more seriously the Kenyan Government must act more in the interests of its citizens and less in the interest of its economy.
As we reach the midpoint of 2017 the month of July is nearly upon us. That means the annual Arts to End Slavery Exhibition will be taking place once again. The event will commence on July 3rd at 6.00pm until July 14th, 2017. The venue has been confirmed as KOBO Trust, 523 Riara Road in Nairobi.
Last year was an outstanding success for all involved in the exhibition. Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) has successfully implemented the project for the last two years with the goal of bringing awareness to the issue of human trafficking in Kenya and eradicating the issue throughout Kenya and more broadly, East Africa. According to International Organization for Migration (IOM) more than 20,000 victims are trafficked through Kenya annually from neighboring countries including Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which is one of HAART’s partners defines human trafficking as:
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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.
The projects main goal is to bring together a number of local professional artist, photographers, musicians, poets who will shed light on the issue of human trafficking using their own medium. The exhibition is essentially a blank canvass where these artists can get the message across to the public and consequently bring awareness to trafficking of persons.
This exhibition is a very creative way for artists to engage the attention of people who otherwise would not be aware of the issue in Kenya. One of last years participants – Rehema Baya stated, “I enjoyed the arts to end slavery exhibition last year. It was really amazing to see my work on the wall and appreciated in the way that it was. The exhibition brought about a great discussion about human trafficking especially among the artists.”
People who attend the exhibition can expect to see the following artists: Paul Otieno Abwao, Rehema Baya, Lia Beharne, Samuel Githui, Immaulate Juma, Abdul Kipruto, Leevans Linyerera, Cephas Mutua, Lincoln Mwangi, Peteros Ndunde, Naitiemu Nyanjom, Brian Omolo, Joan Otieno, Nicole Riziki, Lemek Tompoika and Gemini Vaghela.
If you would like to know more about Arts to End Slavery please contact HAART Kenya on +254 (0) 738 506 264 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The public is very much encouraged to attend the event and everybody at HAART would be very much appreciative of your support in the fight against human trafficking. Donations can also be made to help HAART continue its great work against modern-day slavery.
On the 2nd of June I flew into the greater horn of Africa. Flying out to Kenya was a completely new experience for me. I had never been to Kenya before, never mind the continent of Africa.
I had a connecting flight via Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) and to say the views from the sky were amazing would be an understatement. As you can see below there was open land as far as I could see. Not much except life was visible as the land seemed to be mostly sunburned with rare patches of green. As tI was over Ethiopia I couldn’t help think of Bob Geldof and his work through Live Aid. The concert was created from a reaction to the famine in Ethiopia between 1983-1985 where at least 200,000 people starved to death. Others reported thousands more. This image hit home with me. If you were born in Ireland, you have been very privileged.
Arriving in Nairobi
When I arrived in Jomo Kenyatta airport it was warm, sunny and pleasant. I was close to a large group of South African tourists who were also excited to be visiting Kenya. Wondering why I was coming to the country the immigration officer asked if I was “coming to Kenya for a wife” which I found funny and also a little bit worrying considering the context of why I was actually coming to East Africa. Driving from the airport to the apartment as I looked out to my left I could see Nairobi National Park. I must say it looks better in person than it does from Google maps. Then it set in. I had arrived.
I was lucky when I arrived in Kenya. Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) scheduled a retreat to prepare staff and volunteers on how to deal with security issues, organisation policy and team-building. We took a 3 hour bus journey from Nairobi further north to Nanyuki for our training which is about 60km from Mount Kenya.
This retreat was important as there is upcoming elections on the 8th of August. In the 2007 election political violence broke out after the election was disputed. Some claimed that the chaos which proceeded was a “tribal war” with clear rigging involved in the election process. This will be something to follow in the coming months as the election draws closer.
Post retreat staff and volunteers went to Ol Pejeta conservancy which was about 13km east of Nanyuki. The conservancy was recommended to me before I left for Kenya and It didn’t take long to see why. Vast open areas of land which hosted Elephants, Zebra, Gazelle, Buffalo and Black African Rhinos. For me, this was really cool. Usually these images would be accompanied with the voice over of David Attenborough along with the comfort of my sitting room. But this time I reach out and touch the real thing….
Life on the ground
As a Mzungu (person of European descent) in Nairobi I was told I would stand out in the crowd and possibly be a more likely target. I noticed that eyes do stick on me as I walk through the street. This is also something I was told would happen. I got used to it quick. However, it is often accompanied with a smile and a greeting which makes things a little more relaxing. I did a lot of research online to help prepare me for what I should expect and while there has been many stories of attacks and robberies on tourists there is also many reports of people being extremely kind and helpful. So far it has been a positive experience for me.
It’s not uncommon to walk past small fires on the side of street. Many Kenyans cannot afford to pay for bin services. This is their only option. People also sit back looking relaxed at their stall whether its meat, fruit, veg or live chicken. Often open after 9.00pm. Nobody seems to be rushing here which is nice. This is in stark contrast from my experience in Ireland and the US.
I had been warned about showing off my phone and electronics in public places. Only a few weeks back one of the staff at HAART was sitting in a taxi with the window three-quarters of the way down and he got an unfortunate surprise; a burst lip and all of a sudden he was one phone less. So there is that side to Nairobi. The city is starting to live up to the nickname I heard prior to leaving – “Nairobbi.”
When I sit at my desk I hear the muezzin at the local mosque calling prayer. Kenya is mainly a christian country but there are a wide range of nationalities and cultures. Somali, Sudanese, Ugandan, Burundian, Indian and Rwandan refugees and migrants have all settled in Kenya for one reason or another bringing with them their way if life. This has had a great effect on culture, politics and religion in the region. Its very diverse here.
When I traveled abroad before people often said to me and were aware that Ireland is a famous as a tiny green island. Green is not something that I associated with Kenya before I left but I will definitely be associating with as I tell people of my experience. Rural Kenya is beautiful. Green everywhere. Mountainous in areas with picturesque views. They can be covered in corn, pineapple or coffee plantations. It’s really cool to see in person.
As you walk through the streets of Nairobi you quickly learn it is very different from back home. Most streets have fruit and vegetable stalls, there is no bus schedule and the drivers are not as patient with other road users (this is a MAJOR understatement). For me my trip to the office is not far. I get a bus (known as Matatu) to the office which cost 10 Kenyan Schillings (€00.10). So getting by is relatively easy coming from Ireland. I was surprised to learn that Guinness is everywhere here. Cans and cans of it. Every supermarket has them. Dairy milk too. Nice to have some options just in case you miss home!
I am only one week in to this placement and I’ve had it relatively easy so far but I expect more difficult challenges to come my way. The post-election period is a worry and may require leaving the country for a period of time. Interesting times ahead.