From early January we continued with Awareness workshops on Human Trafficking, in total, we had 250 of them (workshops) given before Covid-19 was announced, reaching almost 7.000 people, mainly youth. Then immediately lockdown started, this meant we had to discontinue workshops as it involves gatherings of people. All students were sent home and that brought other unforeseen difficulties and extra expenses. Suddenly, these students had no technology to follow classes and do exams, etc. online. Since all of them are from slums and never owned a phone, now they needed ‘smart’ phones, bundles, revision papers, etc. I already knew that for most parents it was also an added burden to feed them and in the case of some single and/or trafficked mothers, I assisted them with small micro-finances to supplement the family income. Added to all this was loss of employment and increased domestic violence. I had four girls I had earlier educated them in a 4-year Dress Design and Tailoring college and they had even got jobs but then the people they worked for said, they could no longer employ them due to a sudden drop in the economy. So, rather than have them redundant and no means of livelihood, I bought them a sewing machine each and they took off on their own making face masks – when people saw them sewing and with machines they have continued to be self-employed and making sufficient money to supply their needs.
Victim Rescue and Repatriation.
As the pandemic progressed we were called to a number of pathetic circumstances where child victims of human trafficking were physically and psychologically abused, some had run away from where they were taken from distant areas of Kenya to be domestic servants in Nairobi slums. We managed to repatriate a total of 12 children. One who stands out for me is A little Ugandan girl aged 6 years who was a domestic servant in the (rented) one roomed house of her biological aunt to cater for two boys aged 14 & 16 and a girl aged 12 years. (See photo below) She was taken to Nairobi on the pretext of a good education, but she was never even taken inside a school and was never left with any food. One day she found 50/- equivalent of 50 cents and went out to buy chips for herself. In the evening she was thoroughly beaten by the aunt (with visible welts even 2 days later), then she boiled water and poured it over the unsuspecting child. The sight of her burns was horrific as you see from the copious bandaging. Some women came around next morning as they had heard a child’s screams, they called us to see a way forward. The procedure to follow here is that the matter is reported to the Chief and he involves the police. We took her to hospital and now she is at a Safe house for children. It will be difficult to trace her family and the Uganda border is still locked down. We suspect the lady has bribed the police as she should be handed down 8 – 9 years in jail. But Kenya is so corrupt – we fight a losing battle most of the time. Eventually, we will have to take the child with her aunt to the family home in Uganda.
I wish you a Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year 2021.
Love & Prayers.
Sr. Mary O’ Malley, MMM