Call to empower Individuals, families, and communities to combat human trafficking

…vigilance required when hiring domestic assistants

Staff Reporter

Human trafficking remains a pressing global issue, but individuals, families, and communities can play a crucial role in dismantling the illicit trade. In a concerted effort to combat human trafficking, citizens are encouraged to take action and empower themselves with knowledge, awareness, and preventive measures.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe is not exempt from the issue of human trafficking. It faces various challenges in combating this crime, including economic hardships, high unemployment rates, and political instability. These factors create vulnerabilities that traffickers exploit to recruit and exploit victims.

Sadly due to the struggling economy and limited job opportunities many individuals, particularly young adults and children, become vulnerable to forced labor. They are being coerced into working in agriculture, mining, domestic service, or informal sectors under exploitative conditions.

Women and girls have not been spared either, they are being trafficked for sexual exploitation within Zimbabwe and across international borders. Vulnerable individuals, often lured by false promises of employment or opportunities, end up trapped in the sex trade as witnessed in those who have been lured to Oman.

Recognising the urgency of the situation, experts and activists have outlined several key steps that can be taken to combat human trafficking effectively. Speaking in an interview with this reporter Gerald Shirichena, who is the Director of the Vukarhani Trust stated that other than pointing everything at the government there is also a need for individuals, families, and the community to take action against human trafficking.

“…yes human trafficking is a complex issue and requires a multi-approach to combat it effectively. While government and law enforcement agencies have an important role to play in preventing human trafficking, individuals, families, and communities can also take steps to assist in preventing and addressing these problems. What individuals can do is educate themselves about human trafficking, and its signs and symptoms. They should know the red flags, they must be aware of their surroundings, and report any suspicious activities to the authorities.

“Communities should avoid supporting industries and businesses that may be linked to human trafficking. Individuals must be mindful of their actions and decisions. This is very crucial and avoid engaging in activities that could contribute to human trafficking, such as purchasing products made through forced labor. Supporting fair trade, ethically sourced products, and companies with transparent supply chains can contribute to the eradication of this crime.

“…communities should raise awareness about human trafficking through education campaigns and community events. They should encourage community members to report any suspicious activities to the authorities. They can also establish community watch groups or other initiatives to monitor for signs of human trafficking. They also need to support anti-trafficking organisations and initiatives while advocating for stronger laws and initiatives to prevent and combat human trafficking.

“Families should educate themselves about the dangers of human trafficking. They should monitor their children’s online activities and teach them about safe online behavior. Families should have open discussions with their children about human trafficking and its risks, and encourage them to report any suspicious activities to the authorities. families also need to be vigilant when hiring domestic assistants and ensure that they are not being exploited,” urged Shirichena.

Online activities play a significant role in facilitating human trafficking, as traffickers often use the internet to recruit, advertise, and exploit their victims. It is important to be aware of the various online activities that may be linked to human trafficking in order to prevent and combat this crime.

The Dark web, an anonymous online network, has become a notorious platform for various illicit activities, including the buying and selling of trafficked individuals. Traffickers use encryption and hidden services to operate discreetly, making it harder for law enforcement to track their activities.

Furthermore, traffickers often employ online payment methods to receive payment for their illicit activities. The use of cryptocurrencies, prepaid cards, and other untraceable payment methods makes it difficult to follow their financial transactions. Regulation and monitoring of these payment methods, along with increased vigilance, can aid in detecting and disrupting the flow of funds to traffickers.

Social commentator and digital expert Farirai Musanhu stated that with the advent of new information technology, there is a need for the community to be vigilant when engaging in online activities since traffickers also prey on their victims online. She further advised on the need to take care of victims and survivors of human trafficking.

“…proactive actions are essential in preventing human trafficking. individuals should be cautious when interacting with strangers online, on social media platforms, or in person, especially when approached with promising job opportunities or unrealistic offers. Families can establish guidelines for internet usage and teach children about online safety, providing them with the tools to protect themselves from potential exploitation. Communities should organise self-defense workshops, distribute safety tips, and promote a culture of vigilance and solidarity.

“Furthermore, individuals should contribute to the fight against human trafficking by supporting organisations that provide assistance to victims and survivors. Families can donate their time, financial resources, or skills to support shelters, rehabilitation centers, and counseling services. Communities must strive to create a safe space where survivors feel supported and encouraged to rebuild their lives. There is also a need to collaborate with the local businesses to offer vocational training, employment opportunities, and mentorship programs can go a long way in providing survivors with a fresh start,” she advised.

Combating human trafficking requires effective legal systems, strong institutions, and access to justice for victims (SDG#16). Furthermore, creating strong partnerships is also crucial in combating human trafficking in Zimbabwe (SDG#17).

It is against this backdrop that activist Hilary Jera said there is a need for the community to lobby the government to come up with policies that address the necessary requirements to act against human trafficking in Zimbabwe. He also stated that there is a need to create strong networks in the community to collectively address this challenge.

“Individuals, families, and the community can join advocacy campaigns that call for stronger anti-trafficking laws and increased law enforcement efforts. By voicing our concerns to policymakers and legislators, as citizens we can push for the enactment of necessary legislation and the implementation of comprehensive strategies against human trafficking. Writing petitions can also assist, and can raise awareness and contribute to the creation of a society that does not tolerate this crime.

“Families and the communities need to strengthen networks with NGOs, law enforcement agencies, and helplines, to report suspicious activities and seek assistance. Through engaging in such networks, families can stay informed about the local and global efforts against human trafficking and access the support they may need. Communities should encourage the formation of task forces or coalitions that bring together concerned citizens, organisations, and grassroots initiatives to collectively address the issue,” he said.

If all of us can stay informed, engage in advocacy efforts, and report any suspicious activities, we can help combat human trafficking and protect vulnerable individuals in our community.

“It begins with me, it begins with you. What are we doing to combat human trafficking? Our theme for International Day on human trafficking this year is, ‘Every victim is important, leave no one behind let us fight together alongside each other to combat human trafficking,” urged Shirichena.

Combating human trafficking requires efforts at all levels – individuals, families, and communities. By being proactive, aware, and compassionate, we can make a significant difference. Let us join hands, advocate for change, and ensure a brighter, safer future for all, free from the grip of human trafficking.

Remember, if you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking or if you need assistance, do not hesitate to reach out to your local law enforcement or helpline for guidance and support.

Together we can change and protect the vulnerable from the horrors of human trafficking.

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