Breaking shackles of human trafficking

Last week the world marked the United Nations World Day against trafficking in people, Jakob Christensen who has an organisation that tackles this challenge speaks about their work

Tell us more about Haart?

We are a registered NGO called Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART). HAART was founded in 2010 as a response to the growing concern of human trafficking, which in Kenya is devastating individuals, families and communities.

What kind of human trafficking cases do you handle?

We handle all types of human trafficking cases, whether it is a child, woman or a man who have become victim of human trafficking as defined by the Kenyan Counter Trafficking in Persons Act 2010. We also handle different types of human trafficking exploitation; forced labour, sex trafficking, to a lesser degree organ trafficking and other types such as early and forced marriages, forced begging and trafficking into forced combat and terrorist groups. However, when you look at our records you will find that most of the victims are women and children. Some of the victims of trafficking are taken to the Middle East and North Africa.

How do you identify a trafficking victim?

The first step is to get information about a case of human trafficking; we get this information in many different ways. Sometimes during workshops at the grassroots when someone gets a clear picture of what trafficking is, they inform us that they know a victim and sometimes other organisation or government officials refer a case to us. We have also seen increasingly that the victims find us through social media and write to us asking for help. We then meet them and talk to them in confidence.

What next after a survivor is rescued?

It is different depending on the individual case, but in many cases the victims are in need of psycho-social support to recover from the horrible experience. HAART has a therapist that gives victims this kind of support. We have also experimented with art therapy as a part of the Arts to End Slavery. programme. It was successful so we are looking into expanding it.

What have you done to fight trafficking in all its shapes and form?

We try our best to be effective and cost-effective so that we can reach more people. In terms of creating awareness we think that is one of the best ways of countering trafficking as it informs potential victims of the dangers and gives them information so that they will not end up being trafficked. We are also trying to come up with new and creative strategies to prevent human trafficking, such as training people who want to work abroad. Secondly, we work with social media, youth and art to take the message even further. For the past few months we have had a project called Arts to End Slavery that uses art to talk about human trafficking and interpret the message in new and creative ways.

How many people have benefited so far from this programme?

Since HAART was founded we have identified and assisted more than 200 victims of human trafficking. Through our grassroots workshops, we have reached more than 20,000 people in more than 1,000 workshops. Is this a countrywide programme or where do you concentrate more? No, we have an office in South B in Nairobi and we mainly concentrate our work in Nairobi, Narok, Kajiado, Kiambu and Machakos.

What are some of the challenges you encounter?

We have many challenges, of course as many other NGO’s we have limited funding and our office space is also very small. Other than that, it is difficult to work with police and other government agencies because the level of awareness on human trafficking is low. We also encounter lack of empathy for victims of trafficking, which makes it more difficult for the victims to get help. Victims are often blamed for being trafficked and therefore do not receive the adequate support from the community.

What should government do to end human trafficking? 

good start would be to implement the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act, which became law in 2010. It is a good law that could potentially have a big impact. Moreover, we would like to see human trafficking as a topic included in the curriculum in Kenyan schools so that children are properly informed.

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