Stigma: The Case of rejection.

‘It was not easy, starting all over again. It was not easy then, but I have overcome things like that. All is not well, but I am proud of the progress I have made and knowing I can support my son.’

Prisca * starts her day at 4am every day. She prepares her children for school and herself for the day. At 4.30am, she is picked up by her driver of public transport in Nairobi (“matatu” – mini bus). She starts calling people to board the matatu from South B to Nairobi town. She gets to town and joins the other matatus waiting in line to take passengers back to South B. This goes on until 11pm at night when she goes to rest and prepare for the following day.

Before Prisca became a matatu tout, she was determined to leave the country for the gulf countries to seek for greener pastures. She met an ‘agent’ through her aunt who promised to help her get a well-paying administrator job in Saudi Arabia. She didn’t have any travel documents but the agent assisted her get her passport and visa and in less than 2 weeks. She was ready to travel. It was the first time for Prisca to travel by an aeroplane. She arrived late at the airport which angered the agent, who threw the documents at her and drove off. An airport attendant seeing her in despair, guided her through the airport process. She boarded the plane and was finally in Saudi Arabia. She was picked up by her employer at the airport. Before leaving the airport, she had to go through medical tests and the same tests were repeated at her employer’s place. Working in Saudi for her was a real challenge as she worked for long working hours with little or no food for days. She was physically and verbally abused. Amidst all this, Prisca was able to save some money ‘under her mattress’ since was told that the banking policy in Saudi Arabia did not support opening a bank account for foreigners.

After working for 2 years, Prisca couldn’t take the harassment any more. Seeing her life in danger, she escaped and went to the Kenyan embassy who helped her get a ticket for her trip back to Kenya. On arrival at the airport, none of her family members came to pick her up. Upon arriving home, no one was happy to see her back. Her siblings and parents were angry at her and kept asking her why she had come back empty handed. The whole neighborhood resented her. This adversely affected her psychologically especially after realizing that the people who are supposed to be her safe space were rejecting her.

Sadly, this is what most victims of trafficking in persons go through when they are confronted by a hostile environment. The societal stigma makes reintegration with family a tricky issue. Survivors continue to suffer from trauma of being disowned by their family and society for failing to return with the promised life changing fortunes (some of it meant to refund borrowed funds). This in the end makes them vulnerable of re-trafficking.

In most cases, families of the victims of human trafficking have no or limited knowledge about human trafficking and the risks abound. This therefore makes it difficult for them to understand the victims’ challenges. Victims go through many challenges in the hands of their former employers such starvation, long working hours, verbal, physical and sexual assault, murder threats and at the end of the month their salary is not paid.

While dealing with victims of human trafficking, the least they need is our collective support so that they can feel valued and loved by their closest kin. Their safe spaces including their families are of cardinal importance if long term healing is to take place. Access to psychosocial support, economic empowerment and medical care (if need be) is of essence. So, the next time someone comes back to the country while in distress, do not despise them, but instead be empathetic with them, be ready to support them. They are humans too, let us join hands to restore and preserve their dignity.

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