Children. Priceless gifts from God. How their smiles and laughter can turn a bad day into a good one. How they need tender love and care form parents, loved ones and the society in general. But how we live in such a harsh world and things are not always fair. We have the rich and the poor and that gap might take forever to bridge. Why do I say this? Because poverty is the leading cause of child trafficking in Kenya and so many other countries worldwide.
Child trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt” of a child for the purpose of exploitation (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking-ECPAT). There are three stages to human trafficking and that is movement by deception for the purpose of exploitation.
Trafficking of persons is illegal in Kenya and cases of such are dealt with in line with the Counter Trafficking of Persons Act 2010 that is under the obligation of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime particularly its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; to provide for the offences relating to trafficking in persons and for connected purposes.
Human trafficking is fuelled by poverty, conflicts, lack of education and job opportunities, harmful social norms, demand for cheap labour, among other factors.
Now you may think that this only happens when someone is exploited while out of the country but no. Even within the Kenyan soil it is illegal and it happens, with so many vulnerable children as victims in the hands of perpetrators. How? Let me give an example that is so close to home that you may have been a part of or heard of and did not think more to it.
When you travel upcountry or “ushago” and after visiting your relatives, talking with them and seeing the struggles, you propose or asked to bring your cousin, nephew or niece or neighbour of so and so, with you back to the city because there are more opportunities and that person can help at home with chores and will get something at the end of the month. That scenario is familiar is it not? A classic example of how close this issue is yet most people are not aware that it is a crime punishable by law.
It is estimated that 5.5 million children are trafficked worldwide each year in this multi-billion illegal business. According to Stop The Traffik, 71% of trafficking victims around the world are women and girls and 29% are men and boys. Children under the age of 18 were estimated at 10.1 million (25%) of the statistics. The purpose of trafficking has been for domestic work, sexual exploitation, begging, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and witchcraft.
In East Africa, so many children have been reported to have been trafficked to Nairobi as beggars in the streets, cross border FGM and domestic workers because the city is a destination for human trafficking. Uganda and Tanzania have had more encounters of this types of exploitation for both children and adults.
Child trafficking has effects on the physical and mental health of victims and the scars may take forever to heal. The healing process takes more than just one person and it becomes a collective responsibility of the community as much as it is of the government. Laws and policies are distributed in the four P’s which are prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership to end human trafficking.
Wondering if there are any signs that a child is unsafe or trafficked? Watch out for the children who are always in closed doors, do not want to mingle with other children and some other signs have been listed here.
How can you stop child trafficking? Educating yourself about this matter and educating others as well. Information is very important and this is a powerful fighting tool. Being observant and using your voice to report any malicious behavior that you see around your home area. With the rise in use of technology, it is important that parents are aware of the risks that children may face while online because perpetrators are everywhere and target children through social media and sites that can be hacked and misused.
How can the government help fight trafficking? Through enforcing laws and policies that are meant to prosecute perpetrators. Increasing the funds to units and organizations that work around stopping this human rights violation. Also through, providing strict follow up programs in children homes because traffickers use the vulnerable shelters and individuals running the places to move children. Making sure that the process to license a home for vulnerable children is thorough and not done through corruption.
Information is important and you can read more about the Palermo Protocol that is referred to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.
Join our online conversation using #StopChildTrafficking #BeyondandWithin and get to learn how you can play a role in this campaign to protect children and helping them reach their full potential.
If you want to report a case, Trace Kenya has programs on human trafficking and have successfully rescued over 900 children and have a helpline 0722499302.
Written by Ann Wambui