Gender-based violence affects the general well being of a person whether it is physical, sexual or psychological abuse. I am a trafficking survivor. I know what it means to lose your freedom, dignity and voice. As a child, my uncle would keep me in the house instead of take me to school. I stayed at home doing chores for almost a year. I was sexually abused almost every single day and could not tell anyone. I was ashamed and blamed myself for what happened. I was lucky that I was rescued and lived to tell my story.
The trauma that follows can be so debilitating that it can affect a girl’s education. When she is not well physically, psychologically and socially pursuing an education is less of a priority compared to protecting herself.
As a project consultant for Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART), I identify and reintegrate victims of trafficking into society. Our organization focuses on creating awareness through grassroots workshops with those most vulnerable to trafficking. Recently, I coordinated a project using art to create awareness called Arts to End Slavery.
HAART is also using social media as tool to create awareness and reach out to victims because traffickers are increasingly targeting people through social media. Before I joined HAART, I was not aware that the abuse I was subjected to had a name: trafficking. Like many victims, I understood that I had gone through a form of abuse, but I could not define it. When you cannot define it, it makes it difficult for you to seek help. This is why most victims of trafficking never get assistance. My passion is to help these women. Statistics show that women and children are among the most vulnerable for trafficking. At HAART, the majority of survivors are women. They are breadwinners for their families which is one of the main reasons for why they are targeted. Our work has also shown that most of these women were victims of gender based violence.
Recently, Judy, a survivor, called me and told me that she was grateful because we helped her regain her voice. I have never been more proud. My vision for the future is to give survivors the lives they deserve back to them. I hope that everyone joins together to raise their voices for this cause. This includes engaging men to fight against GBV as it needs to be a collaborative effort. As perpetrators of GBV, their voices will add to the many that are against GBV and trafficking. Many feminists have advocated for their involvement and we need their support to build this movement. Human beings are not commodities. Slavery never ended, it evolved. Our generation can be the last one to deal with this issue if we choose not to remain silent and take action.
Learn more about human trafficking and HAART on www.haartkenya.org.
*For privacy concerns, Judy is not the survivor’s real name