From human trafficking victims to entrepreneurs

Young girls who were rescued from human trafficking traps at the Springs of Hope Rehabilitation Centre at Kibamba in the outskirts og Dar es Salaam continue with training in various things such as entrepreneurship courses that will help them to be reintegrated back to the society. PHOTO | COURTESY   

What you need to know:

  • Human trafficking business is flourishing in big cities, with many children, especially those from low income families, being subjected to untold pains

Dar es Salaam. Wahda Ally Malema was 17, broke and alone when she failed to continue with her studies in Form Two where her parents told her clearly that they did not have the ability to sponsor her education further.

Without many options, she contacted her sister in Dar es Salaam who advised her to travel from Lindi to the commercial city for work, so at the end, she found herself employed as a housemaid for a client connected by her sister.

However, after three months without being paid even a cent, things fell even more apart after her employer’s husband started abusing her sexually every day when his wife was absent.

“The first month I just stayed well with my employers, but the second month my female boss travelled. The male boss started forcing to have sex with me, a scenario which continued until the third month and I decided to escape,” she explains.

Despite escaping in 2018, Ms Wahda had nowhere to go because even her sister was never found again via telephone, so she found herself in the house of someone who promised to help her for at least two days.

“Later they took me to the community development offices where I was further connected to the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and Collaborators (DMI), a charity group that has played a bigger role in making me who I am today,” she explained.

This is where Ms Wahda met a large group of victims of domestic human trafficking who were adopted in psychology studies, entrepreneurship such as tailoring, soap making, cooking and life skills in general.

Currently, Ms Wahda’s life has changed. After graduating from Springs of Hope Rehabilitation centre under DMI located at Kimbamba, she is now an entrepreneur and has already been a great help to her family.

In a famous restaurant (Camillas Café) located about 100 metres from the Mbezi commuter bus stand, Wahda is busy serving customers while holding a pen and paper to record the amount of money she collected from customers served. “I didn’t start here. First I returned home (Lindi) where with the help of my parents I bought a sewing machine and started sewing clothes, after a while I had to come back here (Dar) to continue with the job,” she says.

She says despite her sewing machine being stolen, she is currently continuing with the production and sale of soaps while continuing to work at the restaurant with the aim of raising more capital.

“Currently I earn more than Sh30, 000 per day. Honestly, I didn’t expect that one day I would be able to be independent and plan my life, but the entrepreneurial knowledge I got has given me these opportunities,” the 21-year-old explains to The Citizen.

Not only Wahda was a victim of this illegal business, but also Angel Buzuka, 20, who now enjoys her life as a hairdresser in the Kibamba area.

“I learned tailoring as well as hair dressing. I am currently employed at this salon and every month I receive more than Sh100, 000 money that I could not get through domestic jobs that were full of ill-treatment,” she says.

Ms Angel says that after fleeing the torture of her employer, she found herself meeting with an agent who assured her that he would find a passport for her to go abroad for work.

“However, he did not succeed because after a while I was directed to the DMI centre where I arrived and got more help. This organisation is very important because it has helped many of us who could not have the best life we have today,” she says.

About the illegal business

In September 2015, the world adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and embraced goals and targets on trafficking in persons.

These goals call for an end to trafficking and violence against children and strive for elimination of all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and young girls.

However, like elsewhere, in Tanzania the trend in domestic trafficking is already setting off alarm bells as more than 200 victims are being rescued year in, year out.

At the same time crime of trafficking in persons remains all too hidden, despite affecting families in the country. Too many trafficking victims are never identified, and therefore do not receive the assistance or protection to which they are entitled, according to concerned groups. According to the DMI’s country director, Ms Fatima Rani, Human traffickers take advantage of the traditional practice of child fostering - poor parents entrust their children to the care of wealthier relatives or respected community members to educate and empower them to become independent adults.

“In reality today many such children end being in domestic servitude or being given away to someone who uses them for sexual exploitation,” she notes.

Traffickers target girls from rural communities and often dupe family members, friends, or intermediaries into aiding in their exploitative tactics by offering assistance with education and better living conditions or securing employment in urban areas and abroad.

She says agents of traffickers enter into communities to recruit and transport victims into trafficking situations.

“Trafficked young girls as young as 10 or 12 years are given a huge fee to businessmen to fulfil the myth that ‘having intercourse with a virgin will lead to their business prosperity,” says Ms Rani.

Media reports (BBC investigative report of the 26 June 2022), titled “Forced to Beg: Tanzania’s Trafficked Kids” indicated that traffickers transported Tanzanian children with physical disabilities to Kenya and forced them to work as beggars or in massage parlors.

In 2018, the Kenyan government identified 29 female Tanzanian potential victims in Kenya; the girls were to be taken to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and to pay for their transportation fees with a kidney.

But even so, the government has been taking steps to prevent, prosecute and protect young girls from becoming victims of trafficking by the passage of Prevention of trafficking Act, 2008 and creating the Anti-trafficking in persons- ATS Action Plan (2021 to 2024)

“The role of faith-based organizations, NGOs and Multilateral organizations that are closely working with government departments needs to be appreciated in prevention, prosecution and protection.

There are very few NGOs that serve victims after being rescued in joint operations conducted by the social welfare department, police and others,” she notes.

She discloses that DMI provides rescued victims with a safe place to stay, psycho-social counselling, life-skills training, vocational training and entrepreneurship training during one year stay and the girls become self-reliant and are integrated back into the society.

“We all need to act now. Imagine a girl of 10 years being sold out like a commodity. We can stop this if we all choose to report these incidents to police stations and stop the exploitation of these victims in our households,” she advised.

According to Ms Rani, yearly they rescue at least 150 to 200 victims of in-country trafficking who are mostly from lake zone regions since the trend had already shifted from the southern regions of Tanzania five to six years ago.

“We really want the society to be made to know what human trafficking entails and where to direct the victims wherever they come across them. We are ready to accommodate more victims because that is exactly our dedication,” she notes.