Two recent examples in Uganda demonstrate the value of our community trafficking prevention and awareness initiatives, specifically our Child Protection Committees.
Mukhubuhu Village Child Protection Committee (VCPC) was tipped off by concerned community members about an organisation that was recruiting children from various parts of Mbale, a city in eastern Uganda, with a promise of food, shelter, and school fees. The VCPC reported their concerns to the authorities and together with city and village officials, they visited the organisation. The organisation was found to be registered as a company – not a community-based organization or NGO.
Our staff member said: “Many leaders in this community have been compromised, as this company is paying school fees for some of their children. Desperate parents are being lured into bringing their children to receive these services. Children of all ages are recruited, with boys and girls sharing the same shelter under the care of an elderly man who was found under the influence of alcohol.”
The authorities have since taken on the matter for further investigation.
In a separate case, a 13-year-old boy who was trafficked by a relative for exploitation in street vending of used shoes has been safeguarded and removed from his situation of vulnerability by a VCPC in a Kampala slum.
The child was identified as a victim by a neighbour who saw him carrying bags full of shoes very early in the morning and returning late in the evening. This neighbour, who has participated in Hope for Justice trafficking awareness and prevention events, tipped off the VCPC, which intervened. It was established that this boy had been trafficked through deceit and false promise of educational support – he ended up instead in labour exploitation.
When the child’s parents were reached by phone, they confirmed that the relative had brought their child to the city, and they had agreed because of the promise of better education. When the parents were told what was really happening, they travelled from eastern Uganda to pick up the child from and take him back home. The VCPC will continue to follow up with the case against the perpetrator.
Learn more about Hope for Justice’s community prevention programmes that reduce the risk of human trafficking in the explainer below.
Our community prevention programmes are focused in Uganda and Ethiopia. They are designed to strengthen families, communities and systems to prevent children separating from their families and from being trafficked, exploited or enslaved. The programmes consist of:
- Self-Help Groups: A fixed group of participants (usually women) who meet weekly and are financially and socially empowered through pooled savings and loans, training in effective parenting, child protection, anti-trafficking, communication and other skills. A variation on this approach is the fixed-term Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) for areas where populations move around a lot, such as urban slums.
- Child Protection Clubs (typically in schools) and Hubs (typically in urban slums): Students or children meet weekly, supervised by a volunteer mentor, to learn about children’s rights and the dangers of trafficking and unsafe migration. The students or children then educate others through school and community events. The Hubs are safe spaces for study, play and support for children both in and out of education.
- Community Awareness Raising: Mass media campaigns and training for community leaders, to reduce the risk of trafficking and exploitation.
- Child Protection Committees: Key stakeholders such as officials, police, schools, community and religious groups working together to better protect children and ensure reports of abuse are followed up and acted on.
- Youth Training: Small business skills training and/or apprenticeship training to create opportunity and reduce vulnerability.
- Community Conversations: Structured discussions between groups of people affected by complex community problems in Ethiopia specifically. For example, we bring together domestic workers, employers, brokers and community leaders to discuss complex shared issues of exploitation, human rights and unsafe migration, and agree changes that benefit all.
All of these community prevention initiatives are aimed at tackling root causes, such as poverty, family stress, peer pressure on children to abandon their families to seek new opportunities, and attitudes viewing children as economic assets.