On October 17th 2018, HAART participated in a breakfast meeting about Advocacy on Counter Trafficking in Persons at the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi. The meeting was convened by COVAW (Coalition on Violence Against Women) on behalf of the Kenyan Civil Society Organisation community that works with issues related to human trafficking. Other participants in the meeting included members of the Kenyan National Assembly (Members of Parliament) and the Kenyan CSO’s; COVAW, STTK (Stop The Traffic Kenya), CREAW (The Centre for Rights Education and Awareness) and of course HAART.

The participating MPs in this meeting are all members of the Sustainable Development Goals Caucus, hence their sincere interest in assisting the CSO’s in addressing the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection regarding the human trafficking related issues that were raised during this meeting. The agenda of the meeting was to raise a number of issues that the CSO’s have experienced in their work with victims of trafficking. Among other things, the apparent lack of transparent election processes in relation to the newly established national Advisory Committee for Counter Trafficking in Persons was discussed as the CSO community was not included in the process which the law clearly requires. The general slow implementation of the good – and existing – laws in Kenya regarding trafficking in persons was another issue that was addressed and raised to the MP’s. Furthermore, the meeting also focused on addressing the main push-factors of human trafficking i.e. poverty and work. These two factors are believed to play a big role in trafficking in persons, as the cases that HAART handles are most often cases where the vulnerable people become victims of human trafficking in the search for better jobs with a consistent and bigger income to be able to support their family.

The CSO representatives additionally focused on underlining the importance of partnerships between organisations on the grassroot-, national- and international level in order to enhance the institutional capacity in regard to the work to prevent both Gender Based Violence and Trafficking in Persons. As of today, the institutional capacity is not on an acceptable level. This becomes clear in the way that for example law enforcement has limited awareness of what trafficking in persons is and how to work with presumed victims of trafficking which is reflected in the way that law enforcement handles cases of trafficking in persons. It is important for law enforcement to know that trafficking often disguises in other crimes. For example the police can receive a case of rape or a case of a domestic helper who has been accused of stealing from her employers. Such cases can with further investigation turn out to be a case of trafficking in persons. This mirrors the fact that trafficking in persons often is invisible. However, it is important to remember that human trafficking becomes a visible crime through survivor’s stories.

The meeting was very successful, and it was a pleasure to witness that the participating MPs already were aware of the above raised human trafficking related issues that persist in Kenya. It was only emphasized in this meeting that a rectification of the limited awareness amongst relevant and important stakeholders working with presumed victims of trafficking needs to happen. HAART has been and will continue to advocate for and work on the establishment of sustainable partnerships between the different institutional levels in order to secure better opportunities in this field of work for both information sharing, take on a shared responsibility and mobilize resources in an informed manner so that resources are used where needed. Additionally, in order to allow for information to be shared, STTK is currently developing a data hub where all available data, information and knowledge can be shared and will be made accessible for relevant stakeholders. The CSO representatives encouraged the MP’s to take on the role of advocating for human trafficking related issues on the governmental level. Furthermore, the MP’s at the meeting were also encouraged to increase their efforts to raise funds for the work related to trafficking in persons that is done in Kenya.

By Rikke Gramkow