AN OPEN MIND, AND AN OPEN HEART.

I have always thought any decent photographer should be able to work outside of their comfort zone. That one of the marks of my personal progress is to be a familiar name beyond Kenya. To be a ‘photographer without borders’. My perception of success changed on a very hot June in the middle of Nairobi when two lady photographers were left in my care for 2 weeks. Two professionals from the real Photographers Without Borders.
At first site, Daniella, vibrant, super energetic, all smiles and hugs walking towards me at the airport from Canada. A day later came Mattie from Massachusetts, very graceful, super polite and observant. She came off the plane expecting to smell the Kenyan soil, literally. They had both been in Kenya before and had an appreciation for everything.

This was the perfect team! We had a plan.

Our first assignment, portraits of the HAART staff. Swift and engaging. Everybody got to know each other. The stiff were softened the talkative were heard. We were building a story about HAART. For the subsequent weeks, each department had its moment on the spotlight. From an open door into the victims department where the photographers had interaction with the girl survivors at the shelter to document their lives and stories, to travelling across counties with the social outreach department for an educational session with primary school children in Machakos. The children ever so curious, got to learn how to prevent themselves from being trafficked.

We ate, we drank, we played. Every girl at the shelter was free to express herself not minding the camera within their identity restrictions. They felt safe and happy to have made new friends. They also had a special studio portrait session with Mattie. Mattie whispered and held hands with the girls whilst getting to know them personally. She let them pose as they wanted and they constantly peaked through her viewfinder to look at themselves. Everybody who saw the images, was blown away. They captured the strength and hope of young girls determined to make themselves whole again.

Week two came as a surprise for the photographers as time seemed to move so fast. They had a few days left to complete the assignment and depart from HAART. Bonding was part of the story telling session and highlighting this was an early morning trip to the Nairobi Aboretum for a documentation of Sophie’s story, one of our adult survivors. Danielle set up an atmosphere of trust and friendship. I had never seen Sophie float so high in the clouds as she swirled around amongst the trees. She got to tell her story her way and it was amazing that Danielle got to creatively embody that.

The days came to a close and the photographers had to leave. The Photographers without borders had left their mark.

Danielle and Mattie paid attention to detail, mingled with everybody non discriminately, made everyone comfortable in front of the camera. They were there as a tool to help us express ourselves to the world. Being a photographer without borders is about social clarity, identity and the preservation of human dignity. It is about respecting the story teller beyond your creative intuition. It is about an open mind and an open heart.

REGIONAL CSO FORUM.

REGIONAL CSO FORUM.

On the 3rd of July to the 6th of July 2017 HAART in partnership with GIZ held a conference for CSOs dealing with aspects of migration with a focus on human trafficking. The conference was held in Nairobi Kenya and it saw participants from East Africa and Horn of Africa attend. The participating countries were namely: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia. The participants were about 34 in number. We also had guest from Expertise France, UNODC, IOM and GIZ Better Migration Management program implementing partners from Ethiopia and Sudan.

The forum began on Monday the 3rd in the evening with an ice breaking introduction session. This was to get the participants to jell. The following day started with official opening remarks from HAART’s director and an outline of the Forum’s objectives and overview from Jakob Christensen. This was to kind of set the foundation and explain the purpose of the forum.

The first presentation was from IOM who presented on the concept of human trafficking. It was one of the most interesting presentations and the audience interacted with it much. This could be attributed to the fact that most organizations had a key focus on human trafficking.  We also had short presentations from the facilitating organizations which in this case was HAART, GIZ as well as Stop The Traffik. This was just to inform the participants what the organizations are all about and their activities.

The participants then got a chance to present what they do and the key focus of their organizations. This was done by writing on flip charts round the conference room. Thereafter, all participants went around to read their colleagues information and asked questions where need be. This particular activity was set so that people can learn from each other and see how they can collaborate in their work.

On this day we also had a presentation on migrant rights and safe and fair migration from HAART’s director Radoslaw Malinowski. This was to crown the theme of the forum and also to add onto the knowledge of the participants on this subject as it is something they deal with in their day to day work. The first day ended with a discussion amongst the participants on the agenda of the forum and expectations. In the evening, we took the participants to an art exhibition dubbed “A2ES” which means Arts To End Slavery. This is an awareness raising campaign that HAART has done yearly since 2015 which brings together different artists from across the country to do art pieces that speak of human trafficking.

The second day was facilitated by the contracted consultant Fuzz Kitto who is the coordinator of Stop The Traffik Australia. Fuzz trained on coalition building which was the general objective of this forum. The idea is to set up a regional coalition and/or capacitate the different countries to set up national coalitions which are more sustainable. This is so as to ensure that there is no overlapping of work and that people work coherently as they learn from each other. It is also a good way of learning from each other. On this day we also had a short presentation from the Kenya’s counter trafficking advisory committee chair speaking of where Kenya is at I terms of curbing human trafficking. That evening we had a cultural evening, and it was great to watch the different countries represent their cultures in dance, song and dressing.

The final day which was the 6th of July we had a presentation on the status of safe houses in Kenya and Ethiopia from Expertise France. We then undertook workshop evaluation exercise which basically involved filling in a questionnaire to gage how effective the forum was. Before closing the forum, the participants had an opportunity to discuss the way forward from the forum’s discussions. All the countries listed at least three action points they would undertake after the forum. The forum was officially closed at lunch time and guest left after lunch.

We must say that it was a success especially in the representation both sectorial and country wise. We hope to see progress next year as a result of the deliberations that occurred during the three days.

By Phyllis Mburu

Life in the victims department.

A DAY AT THE OFFICE

It’s been four months since I joined HAART Kenya in the Victims department. “Multiple phone rings at the office everyone too busy to pick up, as they try to find a solution to a case or solve an urgent victim’s problem. I pick up a minute later to my surprise it’s a referral case. The person on the phone states “I need to understand what you do as an Organization.” I explain what HAART Kenya does in relevance to human trafficking cases then my caller hangs up. I dial back and the caller says that they need help to resolve a case on child neglect. I am quick to remember a referral partner organization that deals with such cases and direct the caller to a relevant contact person to get help because we deal majorly in assisting potential victims of human trafficking.

I take a minute to breathe in and out. In that moment my colleague calls out the case workers and what follows is that we have a new case that needs urgent attention. At that moment everything I was doing comes to a stop because our main objective is that a potential victim comes first at any given time. We get the contact details of the victim, full names, phone contact, emergency contact and then ensure that the victim whether a minor or an adult is safe in the environment he or she is in. If it needs an immediate follow up one of the case workers is tasked with that objective. If a minor is not safe and the referral body has the child an immediate rescue is done on the child and they are transferred to a safe location; the HAART Kenya shelter. Adults are requested to ensure they are secure before attempting to run or move from the situation there in.

Another week passes and our cases pilling up. The Case workers up and down trying to ensure that our victims at hand are safe and all documentation needed for the victim’s psycho-social support, home tracing, referral agencies and home re-integration are up-to date. The Case Management system is an easy to use, friendly online platform that helps us update past and recent cases anytime and anywhere. This is our main tool while at the office as it enables every case worker and the management team as a whole to have a clear outline of all the cases handled within every week’s schedule.

This department handles all potential victims ensuring proper documentation, making follow up phone calls to victims and referral organization that help us in times of home tracing, home re-integration and relevant support.  This department has our In-house therapist who handles cases that need urgent psycho-therapy sessions on our victims. The office has a therapy-counseling room for our victims who show up when sessions are organized for them.

We have monthly department meetings which take place on the first week of the every month. This meeting helps us share our experiences while handling different victims and their case histories, it helps us gain positive impacts on the field from each case workers side of the story and lastly it challenges from the environments we work in. It is always necessary to ensure that all details are shared among the victim department personnel in relevance to the victims’ well-being. On this day we always have a self-care program that entails maybe a Yoga session or a massage session that helps everyone relieve from the stressful day to day work by improving our morale, mental and physical state.

A DAY ON THE FIELD

A day on the field is not as easy as it looks or sounds when it requires you to move up and down finding referral letters for cases given to us by children officers. A day following up on a minor victim as a case worker entails some tasks such as moving from one area to another to ensure all children offices give us referral letters and ensuring that home tracing for the child has been done which later if successful leads to home re-integration with the family. Other cases that have court hearings are filled and send to our Legal team which works to ensure security for our minor victims who at that time are safe at the Shelter. On adult cases we make trips to areas they live in after they have been put through a psycho-social support system to enable them re-integrate well, back to the society that was once evil to them.

My best moments are the days when am tasked with cases and it turns out successful; not to me personally but to the different potential victims we help through HAART’s psycho-social support, re-integration back to society or when a minor, who gets back the right to see her or his family, or the right to education and the freedom to smile and live as a child once more.

By John Njeru

HAART’s shelter inception; perspectives from the manager.

”The first time I visited this place [HAART shelter] I was thinking – it just has it all for those girls. It is a place for healing and it is just a homely place… It is just what they need and it is a place with silence… I totally loved it” 

The idea of creating a HAART shelter came about when I was meeting another employee at HAART through a different job. I remember; I was talking to her and asked – “why is HAART not starting their own shelter?”

I remember that after we had that conversation and she said; “You wait. We will think about it”

One month later, she called me and said; “Yes, now we thought about it and yes, we are going to start our own HAART shelter – Would you be interested in coming in and for an interview?”

Immediately I said yes and went to the interview. I really got happy when I heard they had identified a place for victims of trafficking. I now work for HAART Kenya as the shelter manager. It is a shelter where they deal with girls who are victims of trafficking up to the ages of eighteen years.

Garden at the shelter.

We now have the capacity to hold up to twenty girls. But in the future we want to have the capacity for around twenty-six girls. At the moment we have eight girls at the shelter and eight girls in the boarding school. We actually also have three babies at the shelter and one in school with her mother.

Additionally at the shelter we have a lady who cooks and cleans for the survivors. We also have a housemother who takes care of the babies because we have girls who are young mothers, and they need help, because of the vulnerable situation in which they are and have been in. To be around the girls we have a residential social worker who must be present. She is here for social activities with the children such as life skills, playing games, exercise and school training.  We also have a woman who is a local social worker. She helps all the survivors in the shelter.  For security we have a guard all day and night. Sometimes there can be five of us and in the night we are usually two.

We have a full and active program for kids in the daytime with different activities. The shelter has items which any normal household would have, but also items for creative activities. One of the girls is very good at knitting and here they have the opportunities to learn various skills which they can use later in life.

The main reason the shelter exists is to provide a safe place for victims of trafficking to stay.

We are rescuing the children from trafficking, together with the police and the area children’s officer. The local administration, the chief and the communities’ leaders are also involved.

In the first week that a survivor comes to the shelter we complete the medical screening process. This is to clarify what their medical and the nutrients state is. We work with the medical section regarding this process but it could be good idea to establish stronger partnerships so the cost can come down and the help is easier for the survivors to receive.

We also identify any physical damage or chronic diseases such as hepatitis, HIV or diabetes so we can help them to get into a medical program and tackle the issue.

After the medical screening is complete we start up psycho-social support with our psychologist. The survivor can have up to ten sessions. If it is possible after three months we go to a family visit to assess if we can reintegrate the child back into the family and the community.

For the future we have great aspirations. We have a dream of building a bigger shelter for which could host to one hundred children. We see the need out there and we could easily have one hundred children. There are many victims of trafficking. For the time being however, we can only help around 1 % and that is heart-breaking to know. There are so many children out there who are not going to have the help they need.

Generally the amount of time survivors can be with us ranges from three months to one year. On occasion it can be up to three years if the government support us. It is important to remember that all cases are unique and our main focus is to have respect for the children/girls and give them a place and time to grow, heal and feel safe again. That is why the shelter was created.

 

By Christine Macharia

Human Trafficking in the Courtroom.

Human Trafficking in the Courtroom.

It is the third week since I arrived in Kenya. I am sitting in a wooden bench, in a courtroom located somewhere in Nairobi, surrounded by an expectant crowd that patiently listens to the Judge, the clerks, the prosecutor and the involved parties of each one of the cases. I do not understand Kiswahili yet, so I cannot really tell what is going on. However, Julie, my colleague, explains to me the development of each case as we wait for ours.

We are there to accompany and provide support to one of the victims that receive HAART Kenya’s services at our shelter. Her name is Paula (pseudonym). She was informed of the fact that she was going to testify. The victim had also received the corresponding psychological assistance in order to be as mentally prepared as possible to face the challenge of re-telling her story in front of a legal system that still has a lot to do in order to prevent the re-victimization of victims like her. She would also receive assistance after the hearing, to help her overcome whatever she would face.

Finally, her hearing starts. From time to time she turns around and looks at us with her big eyes and her nervous smile, to check if we are there. Since in Kenya, as in many other countries, the victim’s participation during the legal proceedings is quite limited and prosecution in criminal cases remains the responsibility of the state which explains our limited role in the process. Therefore we cannot take a really active role during the hearing, but a supportive one.

It is a human right to be able to cross-examine the evidence whenever one is being accused of a crime. This is a process that in an ideal situation, the defendant should always have legal representation in the form of advocate. However, the situation in Kenya is not ideal and in many cases, the accused rarely has a defence lawyer. In general, if he/she lacks the funds to afford on the government rarely assigns one. This means that if they do not have a lawyer, the responsibility to cross examine the evidence lies with the accused. As fate would have it, this was the case in this courtroom; the accused has to cross-examine the testimony of the victim himself.

There she is, sitting in her wooden chair with her knees together, next to the prosecutor, spitting word by word what happened to her, in front of the exact same person that was responsible for all of it. I feel a knot in my throat as I can only imagine how she must be feeling right now. The bravery she is showing to all of us is a source of inspiration. It is the fuel that makes all of us feel hope and a sense of responsibility towards the well-being of victims and survivors.

Even when, at this hearing, the defender was not being particularly accused of human trafficking, Paula found herself in this situation as a direct consequence of her situation as victim of human trafficking. Sexual abuse was just but one of the abuses that she went through the process of trafficking.  She was rescued from that situation by HAART who then placed her in shelter managed by another organization. Unfortunately, while in that shelter which was supposed to be a place of safety, she was, again, sexually abused. The flaws of a system designed to protect victims like her become apparent. After this experience, HAART decided that opening its own shelter would be the better idea to prevent another situation like that. Currently, she receives all the assistance that our staff can provide in order to help her develop into a resilient human being.

Unfortunately, her story is not unique. A victim of human trafficking and a survivor of gender based sexual violence that was seeking for assistance and, instead, found herself re victimized by a system that was not able to protect her and ensure her safety is a common story.

Her story should make us think about how hard all of us – civil society, government agencies, international organizations – need to work in order to implement and develop a system that ensures the protection of victims. We should be encouraging and facilitating their access to justice as it is a human right, while preventing them from being re victimized. By the very system designed to protect them.

By Ignacio Lepro