In what started as a simple visit by a known relative at a small village in Kisii, Kenya, some two young girls aged 16 and 17, vanished momentarily without a trace. The two had been attending a vocational college/school near their home. The two girls were unfortunately young mothers and were as well cousins. This happened during a short break/holiday during which time, the two stayed with their grand-mother before a maternal aunt visited them and convinced them to accompany her to the city where she was working as a bar tender.
Cause for Alarm
The college Principal had a rude shock when other students reported for the new term and the two girls were missing for two weeks before he enquired of their whereabouts. He visited their home which was not far from the college and he was informed that they had been taken to Nairobi for passport processing so that they could travel to the Gulf countries as domestic workers. Since the college is co-founded between a Kenyan and an American citizen, the Principal immediately sent out an alert signal to the founder in US who in turn alerted another human rights activist based in Europe.
The European activist immediately released an alert message to one specific support network in Kenya calling for help to intercept the girls from exiting. This was almost turning out to be a global effort and different actors seemed to offer their strategic advantage input towards the rescue effort.
The Role of a Sub-Regional Civil Society Organization (CSO)
This alert was swiftly picked by a senior staff at CHTEA who mobilized emergency interception measures while coordinating with the college Principal on the ground who was briefed to gather verified data from the homestead where these girls disappeared from. The most immediate action was to verify that the two minors were still within the borders of Kenya. Interception would have been a feasible idea in this case. On the same day evening, the college Principal proceeded and pitched camp at the girls’ grandmother homestead where the girls were last seen. His mission was simple, to know who took the girls away and where they were destined for in Nairobi and explore if there could be some forwarding address or contacts to trace the girls. This information was to be relayed back to CHTEA for further processing and determination of next steps.
The Saga Comes Full Circle
As fate would have it, the Principal was forced to wait for the girls’ grandmother for hours on end as she had visited local market to sell farm produce. As darkness was approaching, the grandmother arrived home and a discussion about the girls’ whereabouts ensued. As the grand mother was briefing the Principal, the two girls suddenly appeared from the shadows of the night. The homestead mood immediately changed from lamentation to celebration and welcomed back the two girls. The girls were able to offer first hand narration of what had happened.
The two girls were shocked to find the Principal at their grand-mother’s compound at that hour of the evening. They were given a chance to explain their escapades. They had been away for two weeks and their grandmother was worried that they would miss out in their vocational training. After exchanging pleasantries, the girls settled down and shared their adventure to the city. They explained that their aunt had lied to them that they could get passports to enable them travel to the Gulf countries for domestic work which was essentially considered a short cut to making quick money to support their babies. “Our aunt introduced us to prostitution by placing us among other equally young girls in a closed room where we were forced to be picked by male clients. We were not allowed to wear our under pants which made us feel naked but the lady who supervised us could hear none of our concerns”, said the elder one. “I kept crying and asking for mercy even from the male clients who chose me for their pleasure”, said the 16 year old.
The girls expressed regret for agreeing to be taken away from college and being deceived that there were better opportunities in Nairobi than back in Kisii. The two girls have been reintegrated back to the college life and are still undergoing counselling.
This matter was extensively discussed between CHTEA, the College Principal and the US based founder of the vocational college. After an intensive online meeting, it was agreed that an immediate opportunity should be given to the two girls by CHTEA for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder counselling in Nairobi during the next two weeks. This intervention will begin the journey of restoring them to their former selves prior to their ordeal in Nairobi.
A New Venture in Counter Human Trafficking
Further discussions also agreed on an intensive awareness campaign by the CHTEA and the college targeting the college community (students, parents and the larger community). An annual awareness programme is being developed to saturate the entire village with targeted messages and capacity enhancement to counter any future such attempts to recruit for human trafficking.
The case above was pure child trafficking and it was aided by a close relative through deception and abuse of authority by an adult. The matter has been reported to the Anti Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Nairobi for further investigation and possible prosecution of the main culpable offender and others associated with her criminal activities.