Busia county, on the border of Uganda, is among Kenya´s poorest counties. The high poverty rate leads to sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. To improve the financial situation of highly vulnerable households, our partner African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) is working with an economic empowerment programme.
The main beneficiaries of the Parents Economic Empowerment Program (PEEP) are parents, guardians and children. Children in this area are being lured by fishermen and long-distance truck drivers with money and gifts into sexual exploitation. To prevent this, vulnerable households are educated on income-generating activities, followed by the provision of seed capital to start them up. Survivors of sexual exploitation who do not want to go back to school are supported to identify economically viable activities.
About 125 parents and caregivers have been trained and supported through the PEEP. The program did not only focus on economic empowerment, but also on ‘social empowerment’. In the PEEP sessions, participants exchanged additional ways of preventing sexual exploitation of children. With their new income-generating activities, almost all of them (95%) have been able to keep their children in schools. Cindy and Lit are just two examples of the PEEP success.
Cindy, fifteen, stays with her aunt in one of Busia´s sub-counties. Extreme poverty forced her aunt to make money by preparing local brew, chang´aa. The men who came to drink in their house began sexually exploiting Cindy when she was thirteen years old. Making chang´aa is illegal in Kenya, hence Cindy´s aunt would sometimes be locked up in police cells. To provide for her siblings Cindy was sexually exploited by fishermen who gave her money in return. After being enrolled in PEEP, Cindy´s aunt was provided with seed capital to open a grocery business, thus stopping her previous trade. The project continued supporting her financially after Covid-19 affected her new business. Through this support, Cindy is able to focus on her education and does not have to worry about providing for herself and the other children.
Lit was sexually exploited for more than one and a half years. Her grandmother, whom she lives with, used to be absent frequently. To earn money, she smuggled items from Uganda to Kenya. On the nights that she was away, their neighbour would frequent their house. He would keep Lit and her siblings company until their grandmother returned. He even bought them food sometimes. Soon he began asking Lit for sexual favours, promising her money in return. This went on until he was caught by a community member. The case was reported but he remains at large. For girls like Lit it is vital to have a guardian who is around to protect her from exploitation. Through the PEEP, Lit´s grandmother was empowered to find a legal, stable income. She opened a grocery business and stopped smuggling. As for Lit, the project ensured that she had scholastic materials to enable her to continue with her schooling. She passed her final primary examinations and is looking forward to joining high school and achieving her dream of becoming a lawyer.