UN raises red flag over trafficking of underage girls from Uganda to Nairobi

Over 3,000 girls from Karamoja are said to have been “sold” to families in Eastleigh by briefcase NGO’s

By The Weekly Vision Online

United Nations human rights agencies and western civil rights groups are demanding action against a thriving human trafficking syndicate in Nairobi. According to well-placed sources within International Civil Rights Agencies and child rights lobbies, a group of “briefcase” NGOs based in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area is exploiting underage girls.

The claims come in the wake of growing concerns by Kenyan senators who are accusing “briefcase NGOs” of ferrying children to beg on the streets of Nairobi. The syndicate has also been fingered out for exploiting the underage girls from poor families as “sex slaves”.

Kenya senators have launched investigations into the human trafficking of girls from neighbouring countries. The Weekly Vision spoke to one of the girls who only gave her name as Loske, 19, from Moroto District in the Karamoja region of Uganda which borders Kenya.

The Weekly Vision online spoke to one of the girls who only gave her name as Loske, she was trafficked in 2017 at the age of 15 from Moroto by a female relative who runs a cereal business in Busia, where her first job was to dry maize and beans in the hot sun

The shy looking girl lives in a tiny mabati (iron sheet) room in Nairobi’s Majengo slums with two other Karamojong girls. She has been trafficked twice – first within Uganda, and then across the border to Kenya. She is just one of many young women in the area who have been sold by their parents, guardians, or relatives at local markets, for as little as US$5.46. Girls trafficked from Moroto District are transferred to Kampala then Busia in Uganda, and then to Nairobi in Kenya, where they are employed as domestic workers.

Loske was trafficked in 2017 at the age of 15 from Moroto by a female relative who runs a cereal business in Busia, where her first job was to dry maize and beans in the hot sun. Her salary was US$4.27 (UGS15 000). After two months, her employer received a call to send two girls to a family in Garissa, Kenya. Loske and another girl were sent by bus.

She worked for a family in Garissa for eight months. Being underage and undocumented meant she was particularly vulnerable. She was subjected to sexual harassment by young men in the household – one of the reasons she quit her job. She was given US$9.28 (KES1 000) for her bus fare back to Busia.

However, the money got her only as far as Eastleigh in Nairobi. She didn’t know anyone in the city, but someone directed her to other Karamojong girls in the neighbourhood, and there she met a cousin who helped her get a job as a domestic worker for a family. Her work included taking care of babies, washing clothes, and cleaning the house.

After working for the family for some time, Loske’s employer accused her of stealing clothes. She refused to pay Loske, who was arrested by police and later released with no charges conferred against her. Loske then moved in with other Karamojong girls in Majengo, where she now does odd jobs such as washing clothes for families in the neighbourhood to survive.

The Eastern Africa Child Rights Network of Civil Society Organizations estimates that there are over 3 000 Karamojong girls working as domestic workers in Eastleigh, where they are paid an average monthly salary of 50 US cents (UGS1 759.78). Conservative estimates, however, reveal that since 2019 over 9 000 girls have been bought at markets such as Arapai, Chapi, and Sire in north-eastern Uganda and trafficked to various destinations.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization identified has blamed poverty in Karamoja households, for the influx of girl trade across the Kenya border. Trafficking of girls from Karamoja to Nairobi is driven by family referrals and peer pressure among girls to look for jobs in Nairobi.

Uganda’s Member of Parliament for Matheniko demanded swift action against “briefcase NGOs” luring girls to work in Kenya. Trafficking rings that exploit Karamoja girls operate in the villages in north-eastern Uganda, as well as on both sides of the Kenya-Uganda border mainly in Busia in Kenya from where a business lady of Somali origin with a guest house in the area is alleged to be the ringleader. These include families, motor vehicle transporters, Boda Boda (motorcycle) transporters, and even young women who facilitate the trafficking of underage girls to Nairobi.

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