LEAVE OUR CHILDREN ALONE
By Catherine Wamucii Ndegwa
Sarah Wambui’s three year old daughter could be anywhere as far as she’s concerned. Joy Waithera Maina, as the little girl is called, was outside playing with her friends and sister in Kariobangi North area when a lady came around the plot area and lured her in the name of buying sweets for her.
The naive little girl followed the lady and was not to be seen since; that was 3 June 2021. Reports have been made around the area and all they have as evidence is a short clip from a CCTV footage from a nearby building showing the little girl following the lady. It is two months now since the family reported the matter to the police, but this has not born any fruits. “I have not lost hope, I know in my heart one day I will be reunited with my daughter,”the mother says during our interview.
Human trafficking is a problem our country must come to grips with; it is very much alive in Kenya. According to the state department report it states that over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims from Kenya. Traffickers exploit children through forced labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding and street vending. Every year, 30 July is set aside as the International Day Against Trafficking Persons. This year, the day was marked with the theme: “Victims leading the way. On this day human trafficking survivors are given a voice to talk about their survival story, to share their experience, and expose this vice in our society.
According to the United Nations, in a report released to mark this year’s International Day Against Trafficking Persons, many victims fall into the hands of traffickers due to ignorance or they are hoodwinked with the misguided belief that are going to get help. They have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings. Some have faced re-victimization and punishment for crimes they were force to commit by their traffickers. Others have been subjected to stigmatization or received inadequate support.
In Kenya, the problem is now a matter of grave national concern because children have recently been missing in an alarming rate; the most recent incidences of missing children has been in the Kasarani area. What is more alarming is that this children are either not found at all or they are found dead with parts of their body removed. In July this year, a kidnapper was found plucking a young boy’s eye. This particular incident caused uproar and the kidnapper was beaten mercilessly, that he escaped death by a whisker.
It is said that human trafficking is on the rise because the perpetrators go for certain organs for rituals. It is also said that its because of infertility among families that is causing desperate couples to go through desperate measures of stealing children from other families. There is yet another theory; it is said the problem is compounded by economic hardship in the country as such, people are looking for alternatives to survive, hence they kidnap these children for sell or ask ransom.
“To some degree I will blame the parents’, George Ochieng founder of Slum Child Foundation told me. Parents are being blamed in this scenario for being too busy as their children are left on their own. ‘I have witnessed around 4 to 5 cases in span of 3 to 4 months here in Korogoco Slums,” he added. It is worth noting that most of the children being abducted are from 3 years to 12 years and a bigger percentage of the abducted children are young girls and it is shocking that women are the main culprits.
The government does not have accurate national data on the number of children trafficked in Kenya. Organisations working in this area are both under-resourced and understaffed, according to BBC’s Africa Eye investigative documentary programme. “I know the children laws are there but if this laws would be enforced and stiffer penalties implemented, there would be a step to reduction in the cases,” Ochieng said. There is need to sensitise the community on this vice for they are afraid and misinformed.
Although the United Nation has set aside this day to sensitise the public on human trafficking, there is need for more action to be done such as campaigns to let people know that children are not for sale. This should be done regularly so that parents, guardians, and society can be on the lookout for kidnappers. Corruption also plays a part in perpetuating the vice when kidnappers can easily buy their freedom. If this problem is not tamed, our children will continue to disappear and families will remain frustrated as they feel they have been left alone.
“We should teach our children to stay close to their homes,”a tearful Sarah said. I appeal to my fellow parents to teach their children not to talk to people they don’t recognise and never to accept treats from strangers because that is how the children are taken away from their loved ones by wicked people.
A lot needs to be done. We need more organisations dedicated to the welfare and protection of children such as Slum child Foundation.