Human trafficking in South Africa is a significant social problem. This form of modern day slavery, which trades in the lives of children and vulnerable people, is often carried out by trusted community members who are linked to organised crime.
Responding to these shocking revelations, Women in Action (WiA), a group of pastors' wives from the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), launched a campaign called the "Fragrance of Freedom" on Women's Day in August 2011. In the three months since then, they have raised R55 000 through the sale of beautifully hand-crafted pearl bracelets. R35 000 was donated to the Hillbrow/Berea Home of Hope, a home which rehabilitates abused young girls rescued from human traffickers. To date, almost 8,000 girls who have suffered various forms of abuse and neglect have been cared for at this Home of Hope. R20 000 was donated to Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) to assist them in their work.
In order to educate young people on the dangers and realities of human trafficking, UCKG partnered with Women and Men Against Child Abuse to raise awareness of this modern societal scourge. Addressing more than 1 500 youth group members from regions throughout Gauteng at the UCKG Cenacle of Faith in Johannesburg, Mrs Boogie Dhlamini, manager of WMACA in Orange Farm, stressed that young people are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked. Mrs Dhlamini urged young people to be careful at all times. She said that human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in South Africa and is organised by syndicates, often with trusted members of the community involved in the system which recruits, transports and exploits young people. She warned young people to be aware that doctors, nurses, social workers, government officials, neighbours and even family members are involved in this network of operators.
Mrs Dhlamini cautioned young people not to divulge information to unknown "friends" on social networking sites, including facebook as these platforms provide ideal opportunities for human traffickers to misrepresent themselves, gain the confidence of others, arrange to meet them, and then force them into the system of "removal and disposal". Once in another country, people are trapped into forced labour or recruited as child soldiers. She said: "Young people yearn for freedom, but this perceived freedom may result in your being sold into slavery." Children who have been orphaned are often most vulnerable to human traffickers who prey on their need for acceptance and belonging. Once in the system, the innocent victim loses their values and morals in a desperate attempt to survive.
Mrs Marcia Pires, founder of WiA, says: "Young people need to be aware of 'false promises' which could lure them away from home. Offers of modelling contracts or opportunities in foreign countries are often traps."
Mrs Dhlamini warned everyone to be aware of simple tips to avoid falling into human traffickers' traps:
When applying for a job, ensure the company really exists. Beware of adverts only showing cell phone contacts. Check that the employer is registered with a physical address and place of business.
Be careful of accepting overseas jobs without checking the costs and conditions. Young people have been told when they arrived in foreign countries that they owed money for travelling expenses and are then "sold" to pay off such expenses.
Never allow anyone to take your passport away from you.
Be careful about giving too much personal information on social media sites. Traffickers can use such information to lure you away from home.
Parents should always know where their children are and who their friends are.
This "Fragrance of Freedom" initiative is one of many empowerment campaigns run by WiA. Another recent drive, the "Save a Tamar" campaign, highlighted the abuse of women and children.
For further publicity information, please contact Nametso Mofokeng, UCKG Public Relations, at 011 224 3400 / 011 224 3447 or on email: .
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