We share stories of five young survivors of sex trafficking. Each has her own ambitions and dreams, and, through the “Building a Future (BAF)” project, is being supported to achieve them.*
Terre des Hommes Netherlands is implementing the “Building a Future (BAF)” project, which aims to reduce the prevalence of child sex trafficking in Kilifi and Kwale counties, Kenya. The project focuses on implementing community-based prevention methods; supporting access to quality formal education for younger survivors and vocational skills training, apprenticeships and job skilling for older survivors; and improving household livelihoods in five known child sex trafficking hotspot locations in coastal Kenya.
Between February and March 2021, with the support of community child protection volunteers, Sub County Children Officers, Sub County Education Directors, child protection volunteers, religious leaders, and area chiefs, the project identified and selected 80 (78 girls, 2 boys) child sex trafficking survivors for participation in the BAF project. Following this, the project conducted an individualised needs assessment for each survivor household. Some of the needs identified include; the need for psychosocial support services, support with education, and for the majority of the children, care and protection.
To date, project participants have been supported with basic counselling and guidance from project social workers. Following the re-opening of skilling institutions, which were closed for much of 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, in January 2022 the project began supporting these individuals to enrol into vocational skills training and apprenticeship programs.
Here, we share stories of five young survivors of sex trafficking. Each has her own ambitions and dreams, and, through the BAF project, is being supported to achieve them.*
*Names have been changed
18-year-old Rehema and her family live in a two-room house in Kwale County, Kenya. In 2009 when she was five years old, her father died forcing her disabled mother to fend for the entire family of eight children. In 2011, Rehema was admitted to a nearby primary school. However, she failed to attend regularly as she had become involved with a new peer group and was sexually exploited in exchange for money. Rehema was just 14.
Though Rehema managed to complete her Kenya Certificate of Primary School (KCPE) education, her mother could not afford to send her to secondary school. With no hope of continuing her education, Rehema began working at a sand harvesting site in the area, loading and offloading sand. On a good day, she could earn 1.55 Eur. While there, men and young boys that Rehema worked with began making sexual advances towards her. Again, she was exploited in sex trafficking. A few months later, she found out that she was pregnant. Rehema knew she had to find a way to survive and earn more money to take care of her child.
In February 2021, Rehema was identified by the Volunteer Children Officer in her community and was referred to the Building a Future Project team for support. Rehema was selected for participation in the project and is receiving counselling and guidance from the social workers as she awaits support to start a technical skills course in welding. With the skills she wishes to gain, Rehema is not only hoping to be independent and economically empowered but to also be a role model to young girls. “I hope to be a plumber or electrician after being supported by Kesho Kenya & TdH NL. I want to be a role model to girls in my community.” She said excitedly.
17 year old Carol and her family live in a makuti thatched mud house in Kwale County, Kenya. In 2009, her father passed away due to an illness. As a result, her mother became the sole provider for the family but only earned an average of 1.5 Euro per day from menial jobs like laundry and gardening. When Carol was nine years old, she began attending a nearby primary school. She often went without eating as her mother did not always earn enough money to purchase food. Carol looked for a way to support her mother and help provide for the family, After school, together with her friends, Carol would visit a nearby market centre and engage in sexual activities in exchange for money. Her mother found out about this but did not stop her.
In February 2021, the Building a Future Project team conducted a participant identification process in the area. Being out of school, Carol was identified as a potential project participant by the Volunteer Children Officer. A needs assessment was then conducted by the project social worker to inform targeted support for Carol.
Following the assessment, Carol participated in counselling sessions with the BAF social worker, which have improved her outlook. “My attitude has changed a lot and I want to strive to be better so that I can reach where I want to for the sake of my future. Thank you for the intervention, it came at the right time,” notes Carol. Currently, Carol is waiting to enrol in a vocational training course that will enable her to gain skills and be self-reliant. She recently shared, “I hope that Kesho Kenya will help me go to an apprenticeship school and be a salon professional and later be able to open my salon. I am hopeful the project will enable me to reach my dreams.”
16-year-old Jane lives in Kwale County with her mother and six siblings. When she was about six months old, her parents separated and her mother remarried. In 2019, while she was in class four, Jane was forced to drop out of school as she could no longer afford school fees. Her mother was rarely home, leaving Jane and her siblings alone, with no parental care and guidance. Taking care of the large family became a struggle for Jane´s mother, her small scale business could not meet the family needs. Jane felt that she had to find a way to help support her family, and she dropped out of school. She was sexually exploited by men in exchange for clothes and sanitary towels.
In March 2021, Jane was listed among the children in the community who were undergoing neglect and had dropped out of school. Her case was presented to the Building a Future Project team through the area volunteer child protection committee members, in collaboration with the children department. After being enrolled in the project, Jane has received guidance and counselling from the social workers and the community child protection volunteer. Currently, Jane is participating in basic life skills training as she awaits enrolment into a vocational skills training program. She recently shared, ‘’I hope to gain skills and knowledge in hairdressing and beauty and own my salon.” Jane not only dreams of owning a big salon but of being the best hairdresser in Kwale County.
Amina, 17, lives with her family in a one room mud-walled house in Malindi, Kenya. Her grandmother is the sole breadwinner, working as a fishmonger and tobacco seller. Her income is not enough to meet the basic needs of the household. Due to the household’s precarious economic situation, Amina had no choice but to start borrowing money from neighbours. She would only eat one meal per day, which led to significant deterioration of her health. Unfortunately, she had to drop out of school when she was 15 years old, unable to afford school fees. To provide for herself and her family, Amina began meeting up with teenage boys who would buy her snacks and give her money in exchange for sex. She used the money to buy essentials for her mother and siblings. This continued until she became pregnant at the age of 16. It then dawned on her that she was going to be a mother: something that she was not prepared for.
During the Building A Future Project participant identification process, Amina’s aunt, who attended various meetings with the Child Protection Volunteer in Malindi, proposed Amina as a potential project participant. She qualified and was invited to participate in a basic skills training that aimed to impart business and life skills. The training was instrumental in building her self-esteem and her business management acumen. In November 2021, Amina enrolled in a mechanical engineering course at a polytechnic institution and continues to receive guidance and counselling from the project team. She is now more optimistic about her life and inspires her peers to be more confident and pursue their dreams in spite of their challenges. “I dream of a brighter future and a more fulfilling life,” she stated.
Riziki, 17, and her family live in a two-roomed mud-walled house with makuti roofing in Kilifi County, Kenya. Her parents separated when she was only 3 years old. A year later, her mother remarried and left Riziki and her siblings in the care of her grandmother. As the sole breadwinner, the grandmother did menial labour to earn income for their daily livelihoods. Riziki´s father struggled with his mental health and substance abuse and was unable to support the family. Life became tough and unbearable for Riziki and her siblings. Riziki would wake up and go to school without any food. This made it hard for Riziki to concentrate in school, and her health deteriorated. She struggled to pay the school fees and attended only irregularly. Ultimately, she dropped out of school while in class two. Riziki became bitter; she felt abandoned and had no one to turn to.
After dropping out of school, Riziki started helping her grandmother do casual jobs to support the family. She started selling illicit brew to earn some money for her upkeep. In this work, Riziki met men who took advantage of her vulnerability and she was sexually exploited in exchange for money and basic needs, such as sanitary towels and shoes. A year later, Riziki found out she was pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy. He is now 3 years old.
In March 2021, Riziki became a participant in the Building A Future Project, and received counselling and guidance from the social workers. Additionally, she has been referred to the Department of Child Services DCS office for psychosocial support. Currently, Riziki is awaiting to be enrolled in a vocational training centre where she can sharpen her skills and utilise them to earn a living. ‘’I dream of starting my salon business and supporting my child in her education,” she explained.
Despite the extreme situations they had to go through, all the survivors are receiving support that will reduce their vulnerability to sex trafficking and they all look forward to living a better life and achieving their dreams. Their progress, achievements, challenges, successes and behaviour change will be closely monitored and recorded in the coming months.
This case story was made possible through support provided by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery under a grant from the U.S. Department of State. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of GFEMS or the U.S. Department of State.