HAART Kenya documentary

In 2017 HAART collaborated with Photographers Without Borders (PWB) on a series of photographs. At the same time PWB shot a short documentary about HAART that you can see below.

We are grateful for PWB and especially Matilde Simas and Danielle Da Silva for making this documentary and we are proud that it won awards in two categories at the Human Trafficking Awareness Film Festival.

You Cannot Pour From An Empty Cup

“Care starts with you.” (Yasmin)

This is something we repeat over and over again when working with survivors. I remind our staff that they cannot offer something that they do not have to survivors. The idea of self-care is something that more caregivers are starting to highlight and it is extremely important that we keep talking about. This is because the success of our programming when dealing with survivors depends on our staff being healthy. Therefore, if we want to take care of survivors, we have to prioritize taking care of the people that take care of them.

It is in the nature of most caregivers to put their needs aside especially when dealing with crisis. The nature of protection of victims is that most of the time one is moving from one crisis to another and it is very easy to forget to prioritize taking care of yourself because there is always an emergency and that emergency most of the time is not you. I know, I am guilty of moving from one emergency to the other and going a whole day without even finding time to eat. This is not healthy but it is quite common.

Last year, I suffered burnout. For those that know me, I pride myself in loving the work that I do because it matters. Burnout made me question why I do what I do. It made me feel helpless and lose hope. As a caregiver, hope is crucial because it is one of the things we share with survivors. Above all, I just felt empty. I had nothing left to give because I had truly emptied myself.

As someone, who has gone through trauma and has suffered from depression, I could feel myself being dragged into that dark hole again. I could see the color in my world slowly turn into and black and grey. Depression is a monster that I constantly have to fight especially with my history and line of work. I am lucky that through the years, I have known the signs and I have an amazing support system. I had to take a break from work because no emergency was more important than me.

I switched off from work and found the healing I needed so desperately. However, I knew that it did not have to be that bad. I knew that I was responsible for not being tender with myself and ensuring that I was healthy enough to take care of others. I am learning that it is not selfish to put myself first. It is not selfish to take time off. I am also learning that I cannot save anyone but myself. My role as a caregiver is a facilitator and sometimes when I give myself the role of the hero responsible for saving live; I endanger myself and the people I am taking care of.  As an organization, the question became how can we improve our self-care system? How can we make it part of the organizational culture so that we don’t lose people to burnout? We are learning and hopefully we can develop new ways to ensure that people are healthy even as they work.

By Sophie Otiende

Update from the shelter

The shelter has been progressing well the past few months. We have assisted more than twenty girls with accommodation, therapy, medical aid and legal aid and managed to reintegrate some of the girls back to their families. Reintegration is always a difficult process because we are not always certain that there will be a smooth transition for the girls after spending time in the shelter.

By Matilde Simas 

The girls who are in boarding school are also back for the holidays so at the moment the shelter is almost full to capacity.

We were very proud because one of our girls who resides at the shelter did her final primary exams and emerged as the best student in her school. We all celebrated her and hope that she will continue striving for the best as she goes to high school next year. Her story is quite remarkable because she had to attend school with her child and she still managed to do very well in her academics.

As we approach Christmas, we are quite excited because it is exactly one year since we opened the shelter and although it has not been easy the support of our partners has helped us keep the doors of the shelter open.

We decorated the Christmas trees with the girls and with support from our partners we managed to buy gifts for all the girls and they placed them under the tree. We look forward to enjoying Christmas and hope that this season brings the love, hope and peace associated with it because the girls deserve it.

By Sophie Otiende

Human Trafficking in Kenya: higher risk during post-election violence.

Human Trafficking in Kenya: higher risk during post-election violence.

2017 has been a historical year for Kenya. Never before has the country’s presidential result been overturned; the first for Africa as a continent in fact. The decision however has divided many people who feel it has been a great example of Kenya’s democratic progress, while others feel it is harming the country’s political reputation globally. Nonetheless, history has shown that throughout post-election violence vulnerable people become targets for opportunistic traffickers. HAART Kenya urges all citizens to remain calm and be vigilant throughout the coming months as Kenya returns to the polls.

On August 8th Kenya went to the polls to vote for the next president of the country. With the violence of the 2007/2008 election still fresh in our minds, many hoped and prayed for peaceful democratic process. While there were some casualties last month in comparison to previous elections, the violence had been somewhat confined to certain areas including Mathare, Kibera and Kisumu.

But it is these areas where the most vulnerable people are based. The slums of Kibera and Mathare have a huge population living in densely together. There can be little or no job opportunities. Any source of income is generally very low and people struggle to survive. Many people there dream of a great job, home and quality of life. This is something that victims of human trafficking are offered; but of course, will not receive. HAART Kenya strives to raise awareness to the vulnerable about the warning signs of human trafficking.

Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART Kenya) is an NGO based in Nairobi.

It is the only organisation which works exclusively on human trafficking. Whereas other organizations have incorporated combating human trafficking as a part of what they do; HAART has decided to concentrate its work to counter human trafficking in all its shapes and forms.

HAART has developed extensive knowledge both theoretically and practically of the multi-dimensional aspects of human trafficking both for victims going abroad and those being trafficked internally in Kenya. To provide a framework for combating trafficking, HAART has adopted ‘Four Ps’ from the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking and moreover added an element of research. These include: Prevention, Prosecution, Protection; Recovery and Reintegration; and Policy and Cooperation.

The reason HAART was set up in 2008 was because there was no other organisation who sought to end modern day slavery in East Africa. Since its inception HAART has assisted more than three hundred and fifty victims and has been able to reach forty thousand people through its awareness programme at the grassroots level.

It is this second election period that HAART adds the urgency of choosing peace over violence.

With violence can bring the internal displacement of persons as was seen in the election ten years ago. Consequently, internally displaced persons are at higher risk of being trafficked in post-election violence. Research undertaken by HAART in previous years supports the fact that internally displaced persons are much more susceptible to human trafficking in post-election violence than ordinary citizens.

HAART urges all readers to be vigilant in the coming weeks and months when Kenyans go back to the polls to vote and it is for this reason which HAART Kenya urges all citizens to remain calm throughout this second election period.  Readers should feel free to get in touch with HAART if they suspect a case of human trafficking. The research mentioned previously highlighted that job recruiters were mentioned as leading source of traffickers 88.2% followed by a stranger 9.2% and a relative 2.6%. Therefore, we urge all citizens to verify all job opportunities through the relevant authorities throughout the coming months. Please visit exit.co.ke for more details on how to verify information and to safely migrate internally or abroad for your job opportunity, education and marriage as well. Additionally, most cases of trafficking involve victims aged 20 to 25 years old. Children are also trafficked (15.8% of total cases); especially among PEV IDPs (internally displaced persons) and Ethnic Conflict IDPs according to HAARTs research study.

The coming weeks and months will possibly be tense and uncertain as has been the run up to August 8th. Kenya’s democratic progress since the destructive 2007/2008 election will surely be compared with the outcome of this year’s election. If there is peace it will highly reduce the number of people who may fall prey to traffickers.


We also have an active helpline for reporting victim cases that operates day and night where you can call, text and even use the WhatsApp number – 0780211113. HAART also has a very active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as haartkenya so be sure to get in touch if you have any questions or queries. Why not subscribe to HAART’s quarterly newsletter and keep up-to-date on the organisation’s activities throughout Kenya? While HAART cannot assist with every case HAART can also refer to a more suited organisation if the situation deems suitable. We wish all readers a peaceful election period.


By James Fahey


Our Shelter

Our Shelter

The shelter is a home where young girls are provided with a roof over their heads, protection, counseling services, food, education, medical care and many other necessities. The shelter has many rooms for accommodation which include a sitting room where we watch motivational movies, news and also for holding family meetings. There is a kitchen where our food is prepared each day and not forgetting the different bedrooms which have comfortable beds to sleep.

In the shelter we have five staff members who help the smooth running of life at the shelter. They include our Aunts (names cannot be provided for security reasons) who are like mothers to us, taking good care of us and also not forgetting about helping us in our studies. Two of our aunts prepare our meals and serve us every day. Not forgetting our gate woman who guides the gate during the day.

Another Aunt who follows up with all the activities going on and making sure that everything runs smoothly. Our therapist who carries on in the guidance and counseling session is also very important to us.

In conclusion the shelter is a place where a young child can achieve the goals they desire in life, thus offering a good welcome to people with physical problems.

By a Victim at HAART’s Shelter

To Protect or to Defend?

To Protect or to Defend?

I’m a French lawyer with an international organized crime specialisation.
I have seen a lot of broken lives effected by human trafficking and seen so many lives protected against such evil.

But I haven’t seen enough criminals facing their just punishment and being put being behind bars.

When you do a job such as mine, you realise that the successful achievement are the moments when we tried to prevent something, not when we tried to heal it.
I’ve travelled in many countries and met a lot of those communities who are vulnerable, those we know that they can be potential victims due to a series of unfortunates events and external factors that made their existence more dangerous than anyone else – even if they are not responsible of it.

After all, who would dare to blame a child for the danger around him?

I thought that I’ve seen everything. Until this Thursday 28th of July when I accompanied HAART’s team to a workshop on human trafficking in a High School in Nairobi.
Wilson, one of HAART’s employee started to teach to a group of teenagers – between 13 and 17 years old – what we can call “basic knowledge” about organized crime :
– What forms could it take?
– What kind of traffic threats their lives?
– Who’s in charge of protecting their rights?
– What are the most common danger they can meet?

That led us to the two moments that I’ll never forget.

First, at the beginning of the class, Wilson asked the children: “What are your rights?” I wasn’t able to avoid a smile and feeling my heart warming up when I heard the answers. Because, in front of me, they were children whom, despite all the difficulties they can meet, have managed to preserve their innocence. “Right to eat”, they said, “right to sleep”, “right to go to school”, “right to play”, “right to have friends”. I knew that in a few minutes we will have to teach them about a new danger threatening their lives, even if they had so many issues to face already. More than I’ll ever have to face for the rest of my life.

Will they be sad? At this point, that’s what I think, neither Wilson nor I cared about it because the bursts of laughter in the room was much more important.

And then, there was this moment, when after teaching them all the forms of human trafficking, Wilson taught the children how to react in case they were victims of this crime. There was a religious silence when he explained that they need to scream, run or try to find help at a police station or in an embassy if they were abroad.

Do these children – agitated a few minutes ago – became aware of the danger that threatened their lives? Maybe, but me, at this moment, I became aware of a whole different thing.

In France we were taught basically nothing about human trafficking. The few classes we have about it were for the lawyers, police officers or the first responders to these crimes. But in all my schooling in France – almost 18 years – I’ve never remembered the visit of someone, in my classroom, who thought me how to protect myself from human trafficking. And after some investigations and researches, I’ve learn that, even in our “dangerous” or “poor” areas, no lessons are given to young children or teenagers about it.

Is it because we have no interest in it?
Or could it be because we feel safe?
Maybe it’s because our laws protect us?
None of it.

By opening my manuals and my books – that I had during my lawyer education – I became aware of an obviousness.

In my country, we learnt how to defend the victims.
In Nairobi, this 28th July, we were teaching to these children how to survive.
France creates more traffickers than victims, this is why we do not teach our children to defend themselves because we think that they are not in danger.
Kenya creates more victims than traffickers, henceforth survival instinct become more important.

The greatest difference between our countries is this: in France we defend victims from other lands. Whereas in Kenya, we will protect our brothers and sisters, our neighbours, our friends, our children because each one of them has the unfortunate chance to – maybe one day – become a victim of human trafficking.

“To defend” and “to protect” are two very different things. In one case, you heal something, in the other one you prevent it.

This is why HAARTs job is essential. Healing is not a satisfaction because evil has been done. But there is nothing stronger and alive than this moment when we protect someone. In my job we only search for the surprise when it carries hope and light.
And I have never met so much hope than this Thursday 28th July, with those men and women. They’re ready to say to the entire world that Kenya is not doomed to become an inexhaustible resource of victims. But in the contrary, it’s a country carrying a young generation ready to say “no” to human trafficking, with courage and hope.

By Sarah Benhammou

Perspectives from the edge of a balcony, a tipping point.

It`s a warm afternoon, the warmest it’s been these past three days, and I’m seated at the edge of a balcony soaking up the warm sunrays as I observe a group of individuals happily chatting. These are the members of different organizations, intellectuals and members of the religious community who have been discussing women and migration in the African Context at the Second session of The Religious and Migration in the 21st Century series of conferences. The convergence was at the Insituto Dimesse of Padua Langata in Nairobi from June 6th to 8th 2017. Reminiscing the discussions that have been presented for the last three days, for the first time I grasp Malcom Forbes idea that diversity is the art of thinking independently together. There wouldn’t be any justice if I left this conversation without really explaining why I for some apparent reason was seated at the edge of a balcony? thus, the narrative continues.

The theme of this conference “Women and Migration in the African Context”, was intended to explore the unique experiences of African women in migration and come up with effective solutions to their migration issues. It began with an analysis of the concept ‘feminization of migration’ which can briefly be explained as women being the largest population that is affected by migration issues, attributable to their high degree of vulnerability due to their social, economic status and institutional frameworks that are gender imbalanced. As HAART Kenya, we can attest to this – according to studies we have conducted on the internally displaced persons in Kenya 2017, 64.5% of victims are female while 34.5% are male. Considering this, we have commenced structuring our programs to be more gender sensitive, taking into consideration the different needs of men and women in order to attain equality and equity.

One of the key agenda tackled by the conference was a review of the Khartoum process – a brief history: the Khartoum process is one of three ongoing migration dialogue processes between Africa and the EU, launched in 2014. Kenya being a member state has been part of this conversation which embarks on creating a framework for policy and dialogue around the topic of human trafficking and smuggling and particularly, irregular migration. What does this mean for HAART? It provides a platform for developing partnerships at the regional and bilateral level between countries of origin, transit and destination to tackle irregular migration and criminal networks.

The religious groups were a major point of focus, describing how they have been addressing issues of women and migration in their institutions. Such groups form the largest contributors towards assisting vulnerable people in our society, therefore they are an integral stakeholder in our projects; giving an account of the practical things they were already doing in response to the various needs of migration and refugees, bringing into perspective the challenges faced by sea-fearers while on transit. Receiving such direct information, I was left to mull over, to what degree are religious groups involved in policy formulation and designing of various community projects. For HAART Kenya, one of the principles we center our programs around is partnership and co-operation; and in this regard, we have partnered with Misereor and Misean Cara, recognizing the value of having religious institutions as our stakeholders.

Back to the question, why I for some apparent reason was seated at the edge of a balcony? So, you see having been a part of such intense, intellectual, spectacular discussions not only am I soaking up sunshine but the foresight provided during these three days.

By Miriam Muthio