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Kenya's dirty not-so-little secret

Matilde Simas | Machakos County, Eastern Kenya, Kenya

Organization: HAART Kenya

Child Trafficking Workshop being conducted by HAART Kenya Project Officer, Winnie Mutevu, at the Tala School for Girls, Kangundo, Machakos County, Eastern Kenya.

"Trafficking in Kenya . . . does not follow the typical narrative of big, organized criminal groups – although those also exist,” clarifies Mutevu. “It is one person exploiting another, and in many cases it is someone the victim already knows, such as a relative, a neighbor, or a friend.”

Caught in a web of secrecy, lies, and manipulation, many trafficking victims don’t even realize what is happening. Mutevu believes teaching human rights in school can help address this. While the topic is included in the new secondary school curriculum, it remains to be seen how well it will be implemented.

Poverty, greed, social customs, and human cruelty combined put families at risk for trafficking all over the world. As the fastest growing criminal industry, human trafficking is present in every country; resulting in an estimated 40 million victims worldwide.  

Kenya, in particular, is a hotspot for human trafficking, with the highest rate in Central and East Africa. The main form of trafficking here is forced labor, and an astounding 41.3 percent of Kenyan children ages 10-14 are exploited for this purpose. But sex trafficking also represents about 25 percent of human trafficking cases, affecting mainly women and children, according to the National Crime Research Centre.

The series followers Winnie Mutevu, Project Officer for HAART Kenya, through a grassroots prevention workshops at the Tala School for Girls, Kangundo, Machakos County, and a First Responder Workshop in Ngong, Kenya on June 2017.


Despite the immense challenges childrenface, organizations like HAART Kenya are working to combat human trafficking through Child Trafficking Workshops, which they conduct in slum and rural communities with high unemployment and poverty. The two-hour workshop topics range from basic human trafficking to safe migration to child trafficking, targeting those who are most vulnerable to becoming victims. On average, the organization hosts about 20 per month. The key focus? Raising awareness among community members.

In hopes of changing perceptions and raising more awareness on the severity of the issue of trafficking, Haart Kenya holds a series of educational workshops intended to address and represent each human trafficking’s potential targets. Currently, the organization promotes Child Trafficking Workshops intended to warn young people about the general signed of a potential threat, First Responder Workshops that assist community leaders when a case of trafficking in the local community arises, Safe Migrations Workshops for those who are likely to travel for work and are at risk for kidnapping or luring, and General Workshops that can be attended by anybody who is eager to learn.

[1]UNICEF. (2017) End Trafficking. Retrieved from https://www.unicefusa.org/sites/default/files/assetsdf/End-Child-Trafficking-One-Pager.pdf

[2]National Crime Research Centre. (2014) Human Trafficking in Kenya. Retrieved from http://haartkenya.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ncrc-human-trafficking-in-kenya.pdf

To learn more about HAART Kenya’s work, visit haartkenya.org.

Matilde Simas


Based in Boston, MA


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