This year’s festive season might not be a typical one and the pandemic is likely to impact on holiday travel to family and friends in other parts of the country. But travel will happen and it is a time to be on alert to threats to child safety – including child trafficking.
Unequal power and exploitation are the hallmarks of trafficking. Many are puzzled about what human trafficking actually involves and how it can happen in an age where we all seem to leave a trail of our activities.
The United Nations definition of human trafficking provides clarity:
It is beyond dispute that child trafficking exists in South Africa. There are shelters in our cities that have rescued numerous children and adolescents over the years. They would be the first to say there are other trafficked children out there, unseen and unassisted. The problem is compounded by lack of quantifiable data. We gleam from authentic cases identified by service organisations and law enforcement institutions that:
Poverty, the high number of orphaned children in our society and alluring promises of safe work and education set the scene for traffickers. Once children are removed from everything that is familiar, they become trapped and exploitation continues unhindered for months or years behind locked doors and high walls, hidden in plain sight.
So what can be done about it?
Protecting and helping vulnerable children and youth is at the centre of Girls and Boys Town South Africa’s mission. Firstly, through our national footprint and work with other youth and social development services, we remain alert to places and circumstances that exacerbate vulnerability of some communities, families and children. Secondly, as GBTSA and in partnership with other agencies, we seek to offer them a solution – before the traffickers do.
We do this through:
The tenets of our family-strengthening work were deployed in 2017, when in collaboration with Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, we implemented a focused campaign to create circles of support in impoverished communities in the west of Johannesburg. We facilitated workshops with families, school and community leaders and stakeholders. The method applied a social-ecological strategy to understand and address the complex and inter-related underlying factors that put youth at risk of exploitation, substance addiction and being trafficked. We assisted project communities with identifying and using their own assets to improve children’s safety and well-being.