Milka grew up with her grandparents, who are peasant farmers. The girl’s mother passed away at an early age, and she has never known her father. With Milka and her four siblings to take care of, the grandparents’ household was struggling. Two meals per day was the standard, and the girl could only go to school three days a week.
Early September 2019, then 15 year old Milka met a business lady in Misungwi, the girl’s home town about 50 kilometres from Mwanza in Tanzania. The lady had come from the city to the local market to look for a girl. She offered Milka a job and the opportunity for vocational training. The job was described as light domestic work, for which she would be paid 40,000 Tanzanian shillings per month (about € 15). She also promised to buy clothes for the girl, and indicated that food would be plenty.
“The offer seemed very great. I thought I had found a way of freeing my family from the poverty we were silently enduring,” Milka recalls. So she travelled to Mwanza and started the job. “My duties were cooking, general cleaning of the homestead, washing of utensils and family clothes (for the two children, mother and father) as well as taking care of the two children. I was supposed to wake up at dawn and go to sleep after the family had settled into their beds.”
Milka had to work very hard. Two weeks into her job, the harsh treatment started. She was caned for even the slightest mistake, and constantly verbally abused. “I was feeling bad because she was beating and insulting me without any reason.” When Milka asked for her salary at the end of the month, more insults and caning followed. She never received any of the promised clothes, and the vocational training was never mentioned again.
After about two months, the lady travelled out of town for business. That night her husband sexually abused Milka. The following day he gave the girl some money and told her to take the bus home to Misungwi. At the bus station, Milka realised her money had been pickpocketed. Without money and a place to go to, she spent the night at the bus station.
The next day, the bus station was the stage for a sensitisation activity organised by our partner Kiwohede. The event was all about child trafficking for domestic labour. It was as if Milka was listening to her own story. She immediately stepped forward to explain her own situation.
That same day Milka was taken to the police to report her cases: one against her former boss for child trafficking, and one against her boss’ husband for defilement. She was also taken to hospital for a medical check-up. Thereafter she was settled into the Kiwohede shelter, for further support such as counselling and life skills training. In addition, with legal aid from Kiwohede, Milka started a civil case against her employer for unpaid wages. Milka explains: “This assistance is very important since I was helped to file my case to the court of law. I believe justice will prevail.”
Kiwohede managed to trace the girl’s grandparents. Unfortunately her return home got disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak in Tanzania. But once the situation allows, she will travel back to her family and start with vocational training in her hometown. Milka has a clear picture of her future: “I like making clothes. My dream is to become a garment designer. I want to start a boutique where I will be selling the garments I have made.”