Working to Counter Human Trafficking
Sister Mary O’Malley from Belcarra, Co. Mayo, Ireland, is based in Nairobi, Kenya. A trained nurse, she worked in Nigeria and Kenya in community- based health care and natural family planning. She found great joy in passing on her skills and knowledge. In 2006 she began working in the area of human trafficking awareness, beginning with youth groups. Later, with a young Polish lawyer she co-founded an NGO: Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART Kenya). In 2016 she joined with two other religious to found Religious Against Human Trafficking (RAHT). In August 2018 she collaborated with a group of Catholic laity to found Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA). Later that year CHTEA spread its wings to establish counter human trafficking activities in MMM Faraja Centre in Singida, Tanzania.
Mary and her team place strong emphasis on awareness-raising. In 2008, 33 workshops were held, reaching 520 people. In 2018, they reached 27,721 people in 1,600 workshops, mainly youth both in and out of school as they are the main target of traffickers. Victims, the majority of whom are trafficked within Kenya, are assisted with counselling and medical services, as well as training, micro-finance and support to finish education.
Sister Catherine O´Grady, born in Sligo, Ireland, is the Faraja Project manager in Singida, Tanzania. Most of her forty-five years of missionary life have been in Tanzania, with a short spell in Sudan. She trained as a nurse-midwife and later obtained qualifications in counseling. She has worked both in hospitals and in community-based health care.
The Faraja Project was founded in 2005 for HIV-related interventions. In 2017 the staff became aware of the need to address human trafficking. In 2018 MMM Mary O´Malley was invited to come from Kenya to give an awareness workshop to staff and community representatives. This made it possible for the team to adopt an innovative approach to encouraging awareness and responsibility regarding human trafficking in the area. The Jukwaa Platform has brought together influential and decision-making members of society, such as lawyers, police and those from church and government bodies, to ensure the provision of essential services, the establishment of a safe referral pathway and advocacy for the rights of human trafficking survivors.
The Tanzanian situation
Sister Catherine commented: ‘Tanzania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. The incidence of internal trafficking is higher than that of transnational trafficking and is usually facilitated by victims’ family members, friends, or intermediaries, who offer assistance with education or in finding employment in urban areas....The exploitation of young girls in domestic servitude continues to be Tanzania’s largest human trafficking problem, though child sex trafficking, particularly along the Kenya-Tanzania border, occurs as well. Girls are exploited in sex trafficking in tourist areas within the country.’
Sister Margaret Anne Meyer, from Long Island, New York, worked for many years as a medical doctor in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. On her return to the USA in 2002 she was inspired by the pioneering work of Sister Blandina Ryan, MMM, in countering human trafficking. She looked for other ways to help. While living in City Island, New York, she joined up with a group called the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons. She began to appreciate the work done by international organizations like the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and learnt small ways to intervene. For example, she wrote to the CEOs of airlines to encourage staff training so that air stewards would be aware of and call attention to possible victims of human trafficking.
Now based In Boston, MA, she networks with the Anti-Trafficking Coalition, a group of five religious congregations in the area. She has joined the advocacy branch of the United States Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking.
Sister Isabelle Smyth, from Dublin, Ireland, is involved with Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT), under the Justice Desk of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI).
APT-AMRI works closely with the Mercy Sisters' organization MECPATHS, dedicated to training hotel staff to be aware of the signs of trafficking, and with RENATE.