Mental Health: Engaging Survivors of Human Trafficking

Living Memories: Some sampled and memorable quotes from survivors.

Story One

The sponsor who bought me was hell, there was nothing good from that house from the moment I went there. He was threatening to kill me and I was not given food in the house. The employer was beating me and calling me names. One day while we were both in the kitchen, she was cutting onions and I was cleaning the table, she tried calling me to assist her but I was very busy and I never heard her calling. The madam got very angry and she took a knife and wanted to stub me to death. In self-defense, I struggled and held her hand so that she can drop the knife down. Afterwards, I ran downstairs and locked myself inside my room.

I tried calling the office but they never listened to me therefore I decided to run away but I was arrested by the police and detained. After 4 months, I was deported back to Kenya.

Story Two  

My work experience in Saudi Arabia was terrible. I was taken advantage of by the whole family. Even for the ten-year-old child, I was a monkey. During my work period, I was made to work like a donkey with no time to rest, I was not given food. I was made to sleep outside their house exposed to the heat and I was not allowed to shower. Furthermore, I was raped by the employer and his two sons. The family consisted of 8 children and one of them was disabled. I was required to nurse him and frequently change his diapers.

Story Three

The most horrifying thing that I will never forget during my working experience is that I was molested and assaulted. I was chained and raped by my employer. I was very scared after the threats that he gave me and I had no choice but to escape from that house and found help from the police and the Kenyan Embassy. While I was stranded on the streets, I saw a taxi coming and I stopped it. I requested the driver to take me to the Kenyan Embassy. Fortunately, there was a Kenyan lady inside the taxi and she asked me in Kiswahili “Una shida gani dadangu?” (Translated as “what is the problem my sister?”). I was like, “Thank God”, for the first time I have found a sister from my own country. This kind lady told me that she had also escaped from her employer and she was now living at her own house. I told her my story and afterwards she agreed to accommodate me.

The next day, she accompanied me to the Embassy but I was not assisted. There were no flights operating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After some time, I missed my monthly menstrual period so I decided to buy the pregnancy test kit and after testing myself, I got the shock of my life to realize that I was pregnant. I informed the lady who was accommodating me who insisted that I should look for a job, which I did. Eventually, I move out and rented my own apartment but my aim was to go back home (Kenya). I decided to tell my mother the whole story. She was extremely shocked but she told me that I should not stop going back to the Embassy to know if there were any changes with the flights.

With time, I was heavily pregnant and I could not even get the part-time jobs I was surviving on. I thank God because at the 11th hour, the flights became operational once again. My parents had to sell a portion of our land so as to get money to buy me a flight ticket. I had to travel back to Kenya 2 days before delivery. Upon arrival, I was rushed to the hospital the same night after my water broke.  The next day, I delivered a “product” of rape. A son who looks exactly like the rapist. The more he stared at me while breastfeeding, the more I despised him because he reminds me of the horrible experience I went through.

The practice: Engaging Survivors of Human Trafficking

Survivors play a vital role in combating human trafficking. The survivor voice is vital in establishing effective anti-trafficking strategies that address prevention. protection and prosecution.

In an effort to eradicate human trafficking, CHTEA focuses on the rescue, rehabilitation, return/repatriation and reintegration of victims of human trafficking. CHTEA has since 2020 consolidated a network pool of over 300 survivors of human trafficking. The network creates a platform to share experiences, listen to each other, provide awareness channels to the would be victims, explore potential job opportunities and act as an advocacy vehicle.

The network is coordinated by volunteers who are also survivors. On the 1st of October 2022, CHTEA organized a meeting with a group of 25 survivors (mainly from the Middle-East countries) from the network. The goal of the meeting was to have a recollection day to discuss about their current situations since their return. Those in attendance returned between 2020 and 2022. The meeting also created a platform for the survivors to discuss the challenges experienced by the victims of trafficking and to give recommendations that could in future inform policy.

During the one-day recollection, the survivors were given an opportunity to provide a personalized reflection of their individual plights while working in the Middle-East countries. From their narrations which ranged from physical abuse, excessive working hours, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, threats to the individual, false promises, denied freedom of movement, denied medical treatment, denied food, withholding of wages and identity documents, the torture that victims of human trafficking go through was clearly depicted.

Key outcomes

  1. During the plenary discussions that arose after the individual written statements, it was discovered that most of the survivors still suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and some needed very urgent medical and psycho-social support. After the meeting, 15 survivors were admitted to the CHTEA run shelter/safe house to go through medical care and counseling for psycho-social support.
  2. The group unanimously and strongly spoke about the effects of their trauma on their children. Some of the teenage children had resorted to total hatred for their mothers while the younger ones seem to have been traumatized by their experience in the hands of relatives while they were away. In fact, one participant lost her 10-year-old child through torture by relatives. A majority testified that their children lived in fear unlike before. They made an urgent and passionate appeal that CHTEA considers bringing the children on board for psycho-social support once schools close in December. This, they insisted was an inevitable action if CHTEA was to realize a long-term reintegration of the families. A total of 29 children were registered by the returnees/survivors for the rehabilitation project.

At the closure of the meeting, it was agreed that such meetings should be held more frequently so as to engage the survivors and create a platform where they can share their experiences, ventilate their emotions and make recommendations to various stakeholders based on the challenges of labour migration.

Another group of 25 will be convening first week of November to go through a similar reflection. This group will have mixed gender representation.

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