Tourism is a major source of income in Kenya’s coastal region but is also a key contributor to the trafficking of women and girls due to their socio-economic status.It is against this background that over two days the IOM Kenya Country Office conducted a screening of films meant to raise awareness on human trafficking and gender-based violence on 28-29 November in Lamu, a small town on Lamu Island, itself part of the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya. A total of 102 participants (51 male and 51 female) attended the screenings, of the Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF). Launched by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in 2016, the festival show-cases films and documentaries that capture the promise and challenges of migration, and
the unique contributions that migrants make to their new communities.
The screenings as well as the ensuring discussions are linked with the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign which is held annually to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls. As part of this year’s campaign, UN agencies in Kenya including IOM, reaffirmed their commitment to contribute to creating a safe working environment. Among the films shown was the documentary, “Donald Trump’s Wall: and the Family Racing to Beat”. It is the story of 12-year-old Fatima, one of over11 million undocumented migrants living in the US. The documentary shows the other side of the race to escape to a better life in America as Trump appears determined to build a wall around the US to keep migrants out.
The screening and awareness activities were supported by the Government of Japan as well as the Better Migration Management programme (BMM), which aims to improve migration management in the region, and in particular to address the trafficking and smuggling of migrants within and from the Horn of Africa. The BMM Programme is a regional, multi-year and multi-partner programme funded by the EU Trust Fund for Africa and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), coordinated by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
IOM is one of the main implementing partners alongside UNODC, GIZ, Expertise France, Italian Department of Public Security, CIVIPOL and the British Council. Apart from Kenya, BMM also covers Djibouti, Eritrea,Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and in close coordination with the EU Delegation South Sudan. In his opening remarks at a women’s forum held on 28 November 2018. Mr. Louis Ronoh, Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) of Lamu County,said cultural beliefs and practices by the local community largely contributed to increased vulnerability of women and girls. “Most youths especially males are enslaved by drugs and lack education leading to their vulnerability to recruitment into armed groups,” he also suggested.
Mr. Ronoh described Lamu as a transit and source for victims of trafficking and not so much a destination. She urged the residents to exercise care and vigilance when they are promised jobs outside the country, and to follow the relevant procedures to ensure they are dealing with legitimate recruitment agents. The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection was able to provide information on the legitimate agents.The Children Officer in Lamu, Ms. Jackline Ikuwa told a men’s forum that cases of incest were on the rise in the county. She encouraged parents to be more observant and aware of any behavioral changes in their children.
Other forms of child abuse discussed include forced early marriages, which increases vulnerability of women and girls to trafficking. The DCC expressed support for the fight against gender violence and rights,reiterating that anyone found to have married or to be intending to marry a child below 18 years will be prosecuted. Mr. Adhman Mohamed, Assistant Director for Gender and Social Development, highlighted that tourism is one of the main contributors of trafficking in persons. He recognized IOM’s efforts to curb the practice by empowering the youth including returnees, through its Preventing (and) Countering Violent Extremism programme that operates in the coastal region.
“It will be a great loss if as women we do not come out and have our voices heard. We have a responsibility to our families and the community in fighting and ending human trafficking and gender violence”, Ms. Milka Chepkurui, Deputy County Commissioner, Kiambu County noted. Ms. Ruhhia Shee, the chief in Lamu’s Matondoni Ward, urged women to be at the forefront in sharing information with government officials especially on the plight of survivors of trafficking in persons or individuals recruitingcommunity members under false pretense.