There are an estimated 328,000 people living in conditions of slavery in Kenya (GSI 2018). Men, women and children are subjected to exploitation amounting to modern slavery in forced labour and sex trafficking. Children are often subjected to forced labour in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending and begging. They are also victims of commercial sexual exploitation throughout the country, in khat cultivation areas, near gold mines and along the highway and Lake Victoria. Moreover, those residing in Kenya's largest refugee camp Dadaab are often vulnerable. Men and women are often lured by employment agencies offering attractive job opportunities, then find themselves trapped in domestic servitude, massage parlors and brothels or forced manual labour.
Afaafa was promised a modelling job outside Nairobi, however upon arrival was locked in a hotel room and forced into prostitution. Afaafa was subjected to sexual exploitation for over a month before she got hold of a phone and was able to call the police and escape.
I always dreamt of becoming a model. Two months after completing high school, I was introduced to a modeling agency. My dream came true. As I was doing a photo shoot one day, a middle aged man approached me and offered a two weeks paid modeling job out of Nairobi. I was to spend the first night at an apartment in a posh neighborhood in Nairobi before travelling to Malindi the next day for the shoot. I was so excited by the opportunity and rushed to share the news with my grandmother whom I was living with. I left my house the same day for the apartment.
Upon arrival, I was asked to leave my bags at the door and check out my room. Immediately I walked in, the door was locked from outside. Four hours later a woman came back in and handed me a garment made of fishing net. That night me and several other girls were made to line up and a group of men proceeded to choose one each. We then had to go to our rooms with them. I was in shock and this is when I realized what was happening.
In the one and a half months to come, I was sexually exploited by numerous men who would pay the house manager on their way out. I was left crying and desperate. One day, one of the ladies gave me a note saying she had hidden a phone in the toilet. I was able to get hold of the phone and reached out to a friend who informed the police and HAART Kenya about what was happening. A rescue was arranged. On the night of the raid, I was hiding in the toilet. I was so scared. The rescue was successful and the eleven of us found refuge at a shelter where a HAART case worker was waiting for us. In this place we had access to therapy sessions, medical care, decent clothing and food. For the first time in a long while, I felt safe.
After a week, I was reunited with my grandmother. She had been so worried after not hearing from me for weeks. HAART gave me a grant to start up a cosmetics business to support my livelihood. My business went well until the first coronavirus case was reported in Kenya. A lot of people lost their jobs and cosmetics are no longer a priority for many. This led to drastic decline in sales and profit. Right now I can hardly pay rent for my business, nor cater for myself or my grandmother’s basic needs. All I have to do is to wait and hope for the best.
Narrative provided by and all rights to HAART Kenya