Role of Media in Championing against Child Trafficking in Kenya

By Ann Wambui

The media is an important participant in the society as they influence perspectives or opinions of their listener or viewer. In general, the media plays a key role in society shaping and therefore journalists have to practice credibility, authenticity, sustainability and reliability among other values. Media plays a crucial role in amplifying awareness around child violence.

When reporting on CHILD matters, a journalist has to be extra cautious on the angle her story takes, the things it reveals and how that will affect the child in the future and who becomes part of the story.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass

African Network for Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) together with Terre des Hommes Netherlands Africa (TDH) facilitated journalists in Nairobi for a two-day strategic training on how to report on matters of Child Trafficking and using media to champion against this highly rated crime through creating awareness and advocacy through comprehensive coverage.

Just a brief background of these two organizations, ANPPCAN started in Kenya in 1986 with six-member countries Kenya amongst those while TDH has been around since 1968. Both fully committed to the fight against child exploitation especially child trafficking which is more prone in Busia, Marsabit, Mandera and Nairobi.

I think children are ambitious, bright and talented only that unfortunately they are vulnerable to greater risks in life like exploitation mainly because they are children and very innocent.

International law of the child states that, “Child Trafficking is a crime involving the movement of children for the purpose of their exploitation.” It is also important to note that human trafficking is the second most prevalent international crime after drugs due to the ridiculous profits made by cartels.

United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) defines Child Trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation”.

Kenya has been described as a country of origin, transit and destination for victims of human trafficking with an estimated 60% of those trafficked ending up in other countries in search of greener pastures and means to survive from poverty. (Kenya News Agency)

Now perhaps I should point out some of the instances that children in Kenya are smuggled and trafficked and people are aware but we see it as “normal”.

Take this for example, Mary has just completed her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) but unfortunately, she cannot proceed to high school because the parents are not able to raise enough money for this purpose and plus there are also other siblings still going through primary school. Uncle Tom comes to Busia to visit and before returning to Nairobi, he gives his word that Mary could find some means of survival in the city if she came with him. Her parents convinced, they release her knowing that now the family will get another source of income. Upon arrival in Nairobi, Mary is given to the Kamau’s to help around with house chores and the end of the month, the little she earns, uncle Jack splits it in half for them both. And the trend continues.

So, picture that scenario and think back in your mind how many of your friends or people you may have across at one point having mentioned or described a similar scenario, probably bragging of how he/she made a tremendous impact in that child’s life.

Well guess what, that my dear reader, is not an act of kindness as you would assume, that is CHILD TRAFFICKING and it is a crime as explained in the Counter Trafficking Act 2010 (3) section 5, “an act of trafficking in persons may be committed internally within the borders of Kenya…”. Part 4 section 1 it further states, acts that promote child trafficking;

(1) A person who for the purpose of trafficking persons-

(a) adopts a child or offers a child for adoption;

(b) fosters a child or offers a child for fostering, or

(c) offers guardianship to a child or offers a child guardianship commits an offence.

By law, these persons are liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than 30-years or to a fine of not less than Kshs30million or to both and upon subsequent conviction, to imprisonment for life.

As Japheth Kasimbu of Combat of Trafficking in Persons Regional Consultant pointed out, the most common push factors are poverty, lack of education, rural-urban trend migration and general low level of awareness about child trafficking which leads to manipulation into believing that someone is going to give you an opportunity to greener pastures. Most often, the people involved are relatives or family members exploiting blood-ties relationships and the vulnerability of children and parents/guardians.

According to findings from a case study done in Mukuru and Mathare by Integrity Research & Consultancy on behalf of TDH Netherlands, girls are at a high risk of getting trafficked in the areas as they provide both labor and sex. In the report, Nairobi General Youth Association (NGYA) noted that they assisted in reintegration in 31 child trafficking cases involving 12 boys and 19 girls in Mathare, 2013.

It is crucial for reporters to note that protecting the child’s identity is crucial, so as to ensure there is no further victimization from community members. And while this is greatly advised, so should that of the parents. There is no point of hiding a victim’s face, but then reveal the parent’s identity. It is easy to track that guardian. Protect the name of the school the child goes to. Do not interview or show a child in their school uniform. All these are necessary for the protection of the child’s reputation and safety.

While for journalists it is winning to highlight a particular story of interest, no further damage should be caused especially to the victim. Make sure to make the child feel comfortable with you as much as possible and if there is a sign of reluctance, there is always another time to go and pursue further.

For this menace to be curbed, the media has to create a partnership with each other and the relevant children departments and institutions fighting against child trafficking. The public needs to be educated in simple terms how the process is and so should the children. They should be able to learn skills of protecting themselves against harm and know where to seek help in case someone insinuates or proposes something that would potentially cause them harm. The community should understand the power of knowledge and how they can benefit from it.

With a lot of materials seen and discussions done during the training, it was unanimously agreed that more needs to done in terms of awareness, advocacy and implementation of some of the policies under child trafficking. The media has a task to make sure that information published is accurate to move forward in ensuring safety of our children.

Every child is a different kind of flower, and all together they make the world the most beautiful garden.”


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