‘I was received with open arms’ – girl, 17, rescued from trafficking

A Ugandan girl who was among a group of 10 rescued after being trafficked to Kenya for forced labour and sexual exploitation has been given hope for her future.

Anna* was a victim of ‘peer trafficking’ after a friend convinced her to leave home with the promise of finding a well-paid job in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

But the girls were targeted by an organised criminal group and became victims of cross-border trafficking. They were rescued by Kenyan and Ugandan law enforcement, who are continuing to investigate the case.

Some of the perpetrators have been arrested.

The victims were referred to Hope for Justice’s Mary Lighthouse aftercare facility, for children who have been exploited, or who are vulnerable to exploitation.

A member of the team said: “When we received Anna, she was very unsettled and really struggled to see hope. She had been through such awful circumstances. She couldn’t sleep on a bed because sleeping on the floor was more comfortable for her – it was what she was used to.

“But over the weeks, we have seen her make huge improvements.

“Anna is passionate about catering and hairdressing, having learnt the basic skills during extra-curricular lessons at the Lighthouse. The future of this young girl is bright because Hope for Justice has committed to supporting her vocational training to equip her to develop a sustainable livelihood which will protect her from re-trafficking.”

Anna, who speaks her native languages Ngakaramojong and Kiswahili, is learning English. She has developed basic literacy skills, including how to write her name, greet and communicate. She has also been learning personal hygiene, life skills, housekeeping and cooking. She has learned to make pancakes, samosas, meat pies and other foods.

Anna said: “I am thankful to Hope for Justice for the care they have rendered to me. They received me with open arms and showered me with love. I feel so proud of what I have achieved.”

Anna, the oldest of seven siblings, grew up in an unstable and very poor family; her elderly father survived on government aid and could not work to provide for his children’s needs, and her mother sold charcoal to try to support them.

But this was not enough to fund Anna’s education. With no hope of an education, Anna accepted her friend’s invitation to travel to Nairobi in search of work.

Anna was one of 10 Karamojong girls belonging to the ethnic group from Karamoja, a sub-region located in north-eastern Uganda, who were rescued from Nairobi by police earlier this year.

A member of Hope for Justice’s team said: “The positive interventions that Anna has had since her rescue will give her a fresh start in life and equip her to become a self-employed business owner.”

Anna said: “I have achieved a lot during my stay at the Lighthouse. I have learnt a lot. The practical skills have greatly shifted my thinking; before I thought that the only way I could survive was by working for people as a househelp or nanny, but now I believe that with a little financial support I will be able to start up my own business and earn money.

“I will not be a victim of human trafficking again. Thank you, Hope for Justice.”

*Name and image changed to protect identity of victim