War torn zones as well as regions that experience constant conflicts tend not to have the rule of law respected or prioritized. Such a situation leaves a gap where the locals end up being exploited by those who are well off in their communities as well as foreigners working in their countries and get off such cases scot-free. When it comes to our contribution in human trafficking or our role in the fight against human trafficking, many of us are never sure of our role. RA international, an international construction company with sites in over 10 countries which are facing different conflicts in Africa prides itself in being the remote site construction and services specialist. This company went out to understand its role in the fight against human trafficking when they are operating in such volatile places and they are doing something about it.

Lars Narfeldt, COO of RA International, introducing HAART’s team and the topic.

A journey that began through LinkedIn, RA’s CSR coordinator contacted HAART in search of an organization that could train their team on Human Trafficking in March 2018. RA at the time had realized that their teams could easily get involved in trafficking situations given the environments that they were working. They decided that they were going to come up with a policy on human trafficking which was to complement their current policies which are enforced on their staff members and suppliers. RA lacked expertise on human trafficking and that is how HAART Kenya came on board. This is a company that is well known for conducting business responsibly and they needed to ensure that they do not contribute to human trafficking either through their staff members or suppliers. Training on new policies is always required and this led to a pilot training being conducted for the staff members in RA’s Nairobi office which paved way for a training to be conducted for the Central African Republic (CAR) staff members.

RA employees at the workshop

On the 28th of April, just a day after the French slavery abolition day which is commemorated on the 27th of April every year, we had the discussion around human trafficking and the effects it has on its victims. Understanding human rights laid a good background to bring in the discussion on human trafficking as it violates even the basic of human rights. The discussion around trauma and the effects of human trafficking on its victims was important for the team to grasp really well because it led to everyone understanding the role we individually play when it comes to human trafficking. The conversation was also to help us critically think of how we treat victims and survivors of this crime. “Before this training I always based my judgment on circumstances and somehow blamed the victims thinking they should have been in a position to do things differently” RA employee. The policy that had been drafted to enforce the company’s stand and their position on human trafficking was also shared. The final clap that we received from the participants was a clear sign that the topic was relevant and it did resonate with them. “I have seen a lot of what you were sharing on back at home and I will definitely share with my community once I get back” RA’s employee. Many shared stories of human trafficking and others that were of general abuse of human rights. HAART’s team left CAR not sure of the impact the session would have on the team in the long run.

“I will no longer employ a house help who is below 20 years of age. I will also not accept a family member to lend me their child to work for me while they receive her salary” RA employee. Two months later, the reports we have received with regards to the training have been more than heartwarming. One staff member who went to visit his family back in Kenya found a minor that had been employed in his home and asked the wife to let the child go and get an adult domestic help.

“Personally, I have started thinking a bit more seriously about the relationship I have with our house help. Although things were good before, I intend to formalize the working relationship further. In addition, most of my friends in Kenya are in charge of staff both at home and at work. I intend to take up the discussion on working relationships and exploitation with them whenever the situation arises. Although these things may not have anything to do directly with human trafficking, they do hopefully help break a system of exploitation that has become normal in Kenya” RA employee.

Winnie Mutevu Project Officer from HAART explaining about human trafficking

The cycle of human trafficking will only come to an end when you and I decide to take action. Many of us qualify to be called traffickers because of ignorance. Gaining knowledge and understanding the issue is the first step for us all to bring down to its knees this vice that has left no one affected. As RA continues to share this information with the rest of its staff members in the remaining countries, it helps us to understand that we all have a role to play in the fight against human trafficking. Start with making personal changes as we move together to free our society.

“Because I was guilty of employing underage girls thinking that I was helping them. Only after this training I understood the depth of my mistakes on these girls lives. So I believe just like I did it because of lack of knowledge, many people are doing it because of the same lack of knowledge. That is why I try to share the knowledge I received from the training to help others understand their social responsibility on the matter” RA’s employee.

By: Winnie Mutevu