It is 8.00am in the morning, Elima greets her friend as she hurries to open her small cereal/Mpesa and Equity Bank Agent shop. She is excited about today and hopeful that it will be a successful day. On a day like this, Elima remembers vividly after completing her secondary school exams, she received a sponsorship to a university in Uganda, it went well and she graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Commerce. She was joyous about her graduation, being the first girl in a village to go to university and successfully complete a degree course. She saw herself working as an accountant in a reputable organization in the future.
Life with its endless ups and downs did not go as she expected. She landed her first job as an Mpesa agent (where one can deposit and withdraw cash). Sadly, every day the owner would come at lunchtime, close the shop and lock her inside where he would sexually and physically assault her. She put up a lot of resistance and was very scared and hated him for the actions. She left after five months of absolute hell and she returned home. She found her mother supportive but she had no job after such a long struggle to gain her degree in a foreign country.
One day, a lady who was known by the family to trade between Kenya and Uganda told her of wonderful job opportunities in Uganda. She claimed that she knew a certain hotel owner in Kampala who needed an accounts clerk. Elima fell for such a ‘golden chance’ and had no problem in agreeing to travel to Uganda. But she found herself as one of the ten girls who covered in a bar-restaurant 24/7. The hotel was also a major attraction for men who wanted ladies for sex services at any hour of the day or night. Elima and the other girls, were issued with contraceptives every morning. Elima says, “I was in this horrible, horrible place for 6 months, the only food they gave us was one meal daily.” At this stage she was in tears and her eyes were red.
One Morning, just days before Christmas in 2022, a man from her home area visited the eatery and on seeing her, he exclaimed, “My God, Elima, what are you doing here?” It was easily assumed that he was her client. But he had come in to have breakfast. After a brief conversation, he gave her his car keys and told her the registration of his vehicle and where to find it in the parking lot. In a matter of hours, they were crossing the international border into Kenya. He never harmed her in any way and he dropped her at her parents’ home. Since she had returned without any money, she coined a story that she had been robbed on the way back home. The parents accepted her story.
In early January, 2023, she travelled to Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Nairobi (where her aunt works with the MMM’s). while there, she met one of the CHTEA Trainer of Trainers (ToTs) doing an Awareness workshop and he referred her to CHTEA.
Elima had good ideas about starting a small business but she lacked capital. While at CHTEA, Sr.Mary recalls that, “I felt she was genuine and took a chance to offer her with a budgetary amount of Ksh.15000/-. Ordinarily, some of the victims of trafficking come with various needs such as medical and counselling which require much more money.” From the small capital offered, Elima has now a thriving business of retailing eggs from her home location and she also sells a variety of dried beans as well as an Mpesa and Equity Bank agent business.
*Elima is not her name