When I drove into the Talia Agler Girls Shelter (TAGS) for the first time, I saw young girls playing basketball, harvesting watermelons in the garden, and learning how to cook sukuma wiki for lunch. As I watched these girls from a distance, I had no idea of the physical and psychological trauma they went through before they arrived at the shelter. Their smiles erupted as they led me to a chair and began to brush their fingers through my hair, compare skin tones, and teach me rap songs in Swahili.
I did not know it at the time, but my semester abroad in Nairobi, Kenya would teach me that painful experiences can bring people together to make a difference.
TAGS is a project of the Center for Domestic Training and Development that was initiated to reach, rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate girls ages 10-24. The girls at the shelter were victims of sex trafficking, forced labor, child trafficking, domestic servitude and organ trafficking (National Crime Agency). As the semester progressed, I was able to experience how TAGS provided the girls a safe place to rediscover meaning and purpose in their lives.
This hand-written quote reminds young girls at the Talia Agler Girls Shelter (TAGS) to stay motivated and focused on continuing their education.
Today, women and children make up the majority of the people trafficked internationally. They are often targeted as they seek assistance in obtaining employment, visas and other travel documents if they want to work abroad. Traffickers also prey on the vulnerability of women making false promises of decent working conditions and fair pay. In various destination countries, women are subjected to physical violence, sexual assault and rape, battery, imprisonment, threats and other forms of violence.
Traffickers operate through various means, including, but not limited to:
- Using physical violence or threatening their victims or others – often their family members
- Depriving the person of basic necessities, such as food, water, or sleep
- Making false promises of love or companionship
- Controlling their victims’ identification documents
- Threatening deportation or otherwise abusing the legal process
- Restricting contact with friends or family
- Not paying their victims any wages, purportedly to pay off debts to the trafficker that only ever seem to increase
- Isolating the victim and restricting their movements
A group of girls sitting and engaging each other during a class. Many girls do not have the support to go to school, so TAGS emphasizes how education can give any girl a brighter future.
In honor of World Day against Trafficking in Persons, Vital Voices will feature stories from women in our network who are working to bring an end to trafficking worldwide.
You can show your solidarity by downloading the how-to on how to get involved and sign up for the July 30 Thunderclap. The #igivehope campaign was launched by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes to raise awareness around human trafficking and provide people with a way to solidarity with the victims most affected by this crime.