Sent by Biddy Rose Tiernan, SND
Human trafficking in the IMBISA Region is complex and is fueled by a wide range of factors and these include poverty, dysfunctional economies, conflicts and demands for cheap labour. The exact number of people who are lured into trafficking in the IMBISA Region remains unknown because of the non-availability of official statistics on this scourge. The governments are aware of this problem but they seem to give it low priority. Most of the countries of our region do not have enough resources both human and financial to deal with the problem of human trafficking. Weak legislation as well as very porous borders makes it difficult to deal with the problem. This weakness makes our countries sources, destinations and transit routes for human trafficking. Religious groups can play a significant role in raising awareness and acting on this issue with the support of their governments to curb this problem. With the coming of the FIFA World Cup to South Africa, it has been noted that this occasion has become a way of sending people to traffickers. All those people who would like to make some money during the world cup have become vulnerable to trafficking, especially girls who are told that they will be waitresses or tour guides for the visitors.
It is in the light of the above mentioned human trafficking problems that IMBISA with the assistance of Planet Waves, organised and held a meeting on Human Trafficking. The meeting took place at Midrand Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, from the 18th -19th May 2010. Four Conferences were represented; these are Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In his welcome remarks, Fr. Richard Menatsi the Director of IMBISA outlined the purpose of the meeting as drawing the world’s attention to the plight of women and children who are, as we gather right now trafficked into South Africa from Mozambique at the rate of 300 persons per week. The purpose is also to discuss the role of the Catholic Church within the IMBISA region in combating human trafficking. Echoing the words of Archbishop Tlhagale in his address to South Africa during a mass offered for the victims of human trafficking on 8th May 2010, “we are our brothers and sisters keeper”.
The meeting started with country reports. The reports showed that the issue of human trafficking is real and needs everyone’s attention. As the FIFA World Cup approaches many women and children have been and are being trafficked into South Africa for different jobs for their masters. Although there is a lot willingness to do something about the issue, the participants noted that the legislation on Human Trafficking in their countries is either non-existent or is weak and does not address the issue adequately. There is also lack of knowledge and information among the general public. Sometimes the economic hardships make many people especially women and girls vulnerable to human trafficking. They leave their homes with the hope of finding a job and improving the quality of their lives and they end up being victims of human trafficking. It was also noted that as long as our economies do not enable everyone to have bread on their table the problem of human trafficking will never be curbed.
The participants resolved to organise workshops in their own countries and these workshops are aimed at raising awareness about the seriousness of the problem of Human Trafficking and map a way forward in the fight against it. The planned workshops will cover the following: Definition of Human Trafficking, How the Traffickers operate, How to identify Victims of Human Trafficking, Victim Assistance, Social Teaching of the Church, the Church’s position on the issue and the Way Forward. These workshops will take place as follows; mid-July 2010 – Zimbabwe, First week of October – Lesotho and second week of October Namibia and lastly in November South Africa.
Curriculum Development: The participants to this meeting also agreed to draft a curriculum that will be used to educate and raise awareness about Human Trafficking. The curriculum will have a general structure but will be country specific in its content. The countries will also discuss, design and produce educational and information materials that are country specific for campaigns against human trafficking.
Action on behalf of justice is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel.
Justice in the World – 1971 Synod of Bishops