I have worked for many years on migration and development issues and been in Kenya since 2013. Migration can help improve people’s lives and has offered many opportunities to women, men and young people, helping them overcome unequal opportunities and access to education, economic and legal services. However, one of the negative aspects of irregular migration is human trafficking. Trafficking of women and girls is a form of gender-based violence, and a big concern in Kenya especially in the border areas. It is important to note that the Government of Kenya has committed to combating all forms of human trafficking and law, regulations and guidelines have been put in place to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to protect victims and prosecute offenders.
During this year’s World Day Against Trafficking commemoration activities, IOM co-hosted with the local authorities in the coastal region a series of activities in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale, the reported hotspots for human trafficking. Over a thousand people gathered to participate in the various awareness-raising events on women-led forums, young people in football and drama/theatre competitions to take part in the global campaign to “End Human Trafficking” as well as raise awareness human trafficking among women and youth.
I remember one of the Members of Parliament in Mombasa saying, “some of us have been part of human trafficking, even being recruiters without our knowledge”. She mentioned that it is important for the people of Mombasa to understand what human trafficking is and know the referral channels as well as the policies that are in place to address human trafficking locally.
Community members shared with me that women are more vulnerable to trafficking due to their social and cultural background and economic status in the coastal region. We know that women play an important role in advocacy and awareness-raising, given their skills and local networks. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 5 on Gender Equality (Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation), clearly recognizes the significance of critical barriers to development and women’s empowerment.
When people are empowered especially women, we can have more voices working to to end trafficking of women and girls who are most vulnerable especially in times of emergencies and natural disasters, and end gender-based violence.
Contributed by Etsuko INOUE
Programme Manager, Migration Management Unit, IOM Kenya Country Office
*This article reflects the author’s own views and not that of IOM.
You can read more about the work of IOM in combating human trafficking here