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By Sister Mercy Muthoni
Can the sun really rise again for women who have been trafficked? Sister Mercy, with plenty of experience, believes that these women can build their lives anew, with assistance. That’s why she continues in her work, where she sees great tragedies, and extraordinary courage too.
“Human trafficking as we know is our modern slavery. It is the third biggest organized crime in the world. As Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary here in Cameroon we are engaged in the following initiatives:
Prevention: Under prevention we carry out the following activities:
We carry out educational talks in churches, social groups, in schools, and we use the local media. Here we emphasize the dangers of human trafficking and the consequences. We have a lot of deaths mainly from the young people who died outside the community and many families do not know how or when they died, they receive their bodies and bury them and the story ends there. We use this as a tangible example as it is affecting so many families.
2. We carry out sensitization to the young people in schools and in the youth groups in villages.
3. We educate communities about the Cameroon law even though this is a challenge, as prosecution is yet a dream to be realized, thus we prefer to use community heads to challenge this ill from the grassroots.
4. We work with the drivers unions and the motor bike riders as they are the cheapest means of transport to help us to identify the movement. This has worked well despite a few instances of corruption.
5. When we get in touch with some young women who are tempted to travel to the Middle East, precisely Kuwait and Dubai, we discourage them through counseling and providing support like skills training; many want to go out because they have no means to go to school.
6. We encourage formation of micro scale initiatives through women’s groups. Women are wonder educators and a great force in fighting such ill in the society, all they need is follow up, education and encouragement.
7. Behavior change programs among the youths have also helped because the lessons of HIV/AIDS, and on the abuse and exploitation, help the young people to think twice before making a decision to move out.
Protection and repatriation
1. This has been a very huge challenge. Between 2014 and now, we have experienced a mass exodus to the Middle East. We have tried to work with the embassy of Central Africa Republic in Kuwait, unfortunately it was closed down last year. We have worked with Talitha Kum Network, Rome and IOM and religious organizations within. Many of the cases that have been deported came back traumatized due to the amount of abuse and exploitation they encountered. They had so many debts, as they had to get huge sums to enable their travel and back at home, and they have not cleared the debts. So they come back more miserable than they left. Some are now mentally disturbed. Some come back and hide as they are not able to bear the stigma and shame.
Mercy is a Kenyan Holy Rosary Sister on mission in Cameroon. Her article was first published in Vivat International in May 2018.
Talitha Kum is a Rome-based organisation dedicated to combatting trafficking.