By Anni Alexander
In early November, we had some special visitors from Denmark. Michelle Mildwater and Sune Jørgensen from a Danish anti-trafficking organisation called HopeNow came to Nairobi for 10 days to meet HAART and to see our work. During the visit, Michelle and Sune met many of our staff, volunteers and victims of trafficking in Nairobi and Loitoktok. They also explored Kenyan culture and became more familiar with Kenyan society.
HopeNow, which was established in Copenhagen in 2007 by Michelle Mildwater, works with foreign victims of trafficking in Denmark, many of whom come from African countries. Initially, HopeNow focused on working with Nigerians but have started to work with victims from other countries as well, including Kenya. HopeNow has helped both women and men who have been trafficked to Denmark and has an outreach programme to identify more victims. They give the victims psychosocial help and also have a volunteer run programme where victims can study subjects such as English. In addition, they visit victims in prison to assure their human rights are not violated. Furthermore, HopeNow has been involved in many film projects including the documentary When the Moon is dark by Anja Dalhoff. The film is about human trafficking from Africa to Europe and shows the work of HopeNow.
During their visit we had many special events. For example, on 1 November Sune went to Kikuyu with HAART staff to meet some of our victims of trafficking who have organised themselves into a support group. Sune spoke to the men and women about the experiences and challenges they are now facing. The group also had a chance to voice their opinions about what they would need to improve their lives. Meanwhile, Michelle joined Young@HAART and HAART staff for a workshop at a rehabilitation centre in South B. Young@HAART spent time with the boys there and educated them about human trafficking through drama and dance.
In addition, on 4 November we visited our volunteers in Loitoktok, near Kilimanjaro and the Tanzanian border. The volunteers explained the unique circumstances regarding human trafficking in the area due to the close proximity of the border. For example, Tanzanian children are trafficked across the border to Kenya to work as cattle herders. We also held a workshop in a nearby village where we educated the participants on human trafficking and engaged in a conversation with them. It became clear that there is a real need to have more workshops in rural areas like Loitoktok.
Before they left, Michelle and Sune told us stories of Kenyans being trafficked to Denmark, affirming that when Kenyans are trafficked abroad it is not only to Arab countries or North America, but also to Northern European countries like Denmark. Therefore, there is a link between Denmark and Kenya regarding human trafficking. What inspired this visit was the potential to work together on a common cause. HopeNow already has some previous experience in working with partner organisations in Africa and is interested to work on the issue of human trafficking in the source countries such as Kenya. HAART and HopeNow have already been working together informally on some individual cases involving Kenyans who have been trafficked to Denmark. The visit included many lengthy discussions between HAART and HopeNow staff, and next year we are hoping to start a joint project right here in Kenya involving raising awareness.