Giving hope to victims of child trafficking
“Pendo (not her real name) came from a poor family in Tanzania. She knew very early that to get ahead, she needed to work hard. Going to school was not something she could dream about. This is why when someone told her she could find some work across the border in Kenya, she believed them. However, when she got there she realized that a lot of what she was promised was not true. She was overworked, abused and no one paid her. She was only 16. She was lucky to find someone that helped her escape.”
HAART opened a tailor-made shelter to exclusively offer holistic care to 6 to 17-year-old girl victims of human trafficking late last year. To achieve the shelter’s goal, a 3R’s approach is used: Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration. The rescue process involves the initial removal of the victim from danger and from the exploitative situation to a place of safety through the help of law enforcement agencies and the children’s department. The cases may then be referred to our shelter if they are victims of human trafficking. Once the survivors get to our shelter then the rehabilitation process begins.
The rehabilitation process is aimed at enabling the survivors to reach and maintain their optimal physical, social and psychological functional levels. It provides the survivors with the tools they need to attain independence and self-determination. The rehabilitation process involves:
- Thorough medical screening and care for those who developed health problems because of ill-treatment and exploitation during the trafficking period. Some of these health problems include sexually transmitted diseases, physical injuries, trauma and stress
- Psychosocial support- Due to the traumatic and abusive experiences that the victims have gone through, they access psychosocial support through counseling and trauma counseling sessions which focus on problem-solving strategies as well as coping mechanism. This helps s them to recover fully and re-establish a normal life.
- Return to school- Majority of Child victims of trafficking have dropped out of school. Priority is set on enrolling the children back to school and r while older children are taken for vocational skills training which gives them the skills necessary for employment.
- Legal aid- Victims of trafficking need justice and advocacy to make sure that their rights are upheld thus they are assisted through the legal process including both criminal and civil proceedings where possible
”Before coming for group therapy, I had no friends. I thought no one would ever understand me but here I have found love and acceptance”
“Someone is willing to listen to m . Someone actually thinks that my opinion counts. My story is important.”
“I have my confidence back. I have my whole life before me because someone has showed me that my trafficking experience should not be what defines me”
These are just some of the sentiments from girls currently at the shelter. We are currently hosting 15 girls and 2 children with 8 girls already reintegrated back to their families.
The facility exists to provide temporary shelter and holistic care to girls pending the determination of their cases such as that of Pendo. Psychosocial Support, Life skills, return to school for younger children, vocational skills for older children, reintegration and family empowerment programs to avoid cases of re-trafficking after reintegration are some of the components that are key for a successful rehabilitation process. Rehabilitation, empowerment, self-determination and goal-setting are part of a gamut of services that are provided at the shelter to ensure that girls recover psychologically and regain the self-worth and dignity that will enable them become productive members of the society.
Written by Winnie Mutevu