Women from across Kenya share their stories of surviving trafficking.
In August 2017, I was introduced by a friend to an agent on Taveta Road in Nairobi and sent to work in Bahrain’s capital city, Manama. I was promised a job as a cleaner with a starting salary of Sh35,000. We were about 10 women. When we arrived, we were told the only jobs available were as domestic workers and we would be paid Sh22,000. We protested, but were left with only two options. Either repay the money they had paid for our visa, passport and air ticket and return home, or take up the offer.
We signed the contracts. I was sent to a couple with one child. My passport and phone were confiscated. I was treated like a slave. I slept at midnight and woke up at 4.30 am. I would work for the couple and both their parents, which was not part of the contract. I became so weak as I survived only on strong tea and cake. After seven months I quit and the agent found me another job.
This was worse because the children, aged between five and seven years old, would bite and slap me. I resigned and went to another family with four children aged between eight and 18 years. They lived with their elder brother who tried to rape me.
I ran away and went to the agency where I refused to take up another job. When I threatened to go to the police, the agent agreed to send me back home.
I am from Mishimoroni, Mombasa. I went to Muscat, Oman in 2017 through an agent called Memuma. She lives in Makadara, Nairobi. On the first day I arrived there, the driver sent to pick me up by the agency tried to sexually assault me.
I was sent to a family that mistreated me. I slept in the attic without any bedding. The woman demanded I take an HIV test and would force me to wear gloves when cooking for them. One of her sons, who was 38-years-old, attempted to rape me but I fought him off. I called my agent but she told me to do as I was instructed or I would have to repay the money for my trip. When the abuse continued, my agent sent me to another family.
At the new family, the woman — who was pregnant with her seventh child — accused me of sleeping with her husband and threatened to kill me and stuff me in the freezer.
I called my brother who raised Sh75,000 and sent it to the agent to set me free. After a few months, I was sent back home and told never to return to Oman.
I am from Kisimani, Mombasa. I went to Oman for three years and I was only paid for eight months of work. I was taken to a family with two adult children who were drug addicts.
The woman would physically assault me and accuse me of stealing. One day she accused me of stealing a diamond and took me to the police. I was put in jail for two weeks without a trial. The family came back for me, but I demanded to go back home. They had confiscated my passport and so police advised me to go back to my kafeel’s (sponsor) home.
The abuse persisted and I tried to escape but I did not know anyone so I was forced to go back. I was really worried because I had left my two children behind aged 12 and 18 years. My daughter became pregnant when I was away. I tried to call my agent, Bi Nuru, who operated in Makadara, Mombasa, but she told me there was nothing she could do.
I got in touch with my brother in Nairobi, who contacted the Kenyan Embassy in Oman and I was rescued.
I got a job in Abha, 550 kilometres from the Saudi Arabia capital of Riyadh. I got the job through an agent called Ustadh Juma from Mishimoroni. I stayed there for two weeks and left when the 22-year-old son of the owner of the house tried to rape me.
I was sold to another family to recover the money. I stayed there for three months, but was then sold to another family with seven households (there were seven independent families living in the same building made up of brothers, each of them married), where they expected me to work in each of their homes every day. I was only paid for a month. I was treated like a slave and I fell sick.
Six weeks before the end of my two-year contract, I could not take it any longer. I came back home, but six months later I took another job as a domestic worker in Jordan. Things were worse here.
I stayed with a family with one child for six months. I used to sleep for only two hours. In six months I was only paid for two months. The woman mistreated me and used to spray me with insecticide — I almost lost my sight as a result. The husband tried to sexually abuse me. I came back home after my mother died as there was no one to take care of my children.
*Stories edited for clarity
Organisations working on fighting trafficking and/or sexual exploitation
The Awareness Against Human Trafficking (Haart) operates a safe house for teenage girls aged between six years and 17 years. Haart Kenya also provides legal representation, return and reintegration of survivors of human trafficking.
Hotline: +254 78 0 211113
Mtwapa-based Trace-Kenya runs programmes to stop the trafficking of children, youth at risk of forced labour and sexual exploitation as well as those with disabilities who are often exploited as beggars. Trace-Kenya partners with employment agencies, the International Organisation for Migration and Project Rescue Children to bring back human trafficking victims in foreign countries — particularly in the Gulf State countries.
Phone: +254 72 2 499302
Grace Odembo founded Okoa Sasa, a community-based organisation, to deal with the growing number of children who were being lured into prostitution. Odembo is a member of Solidarity with Women in Distress (SOLWODI), a charity organisation started by German nun Lea Ackerman in October 1985 to provide counselling, skills training and other support for women and girls who are forced into prostitution as a result of poverty.
Okoa Sasa has a rescue centre for at-risk children, including girls who have been rescued from prostitution.
Phone: +254 72 4 173188
Facebook Page: Okoa Sasa
Terre des Hommes
Terre des Hommes is a Swiss organisation with offices in Kenya. It protects children against trafficking by providing education, shelter and medical care. They train law enforcers on how to successfully bring child traffickers to book. Their main focus is on children displaced by political tension or socio-economic circumstances. They help children by taking removing them from danger and providing a safe haven where they can get counselling and education with the ultimate goal of reuniting them with their families.
Phone: +254 72 2 209581
African Network for the Prevention and Child Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), is a pan-African network that promotes children’s rights and child protection. One of the mandates of the Kenyan chapter is to curb urban child trafficking. It empowers communities to prevent and respond to child trafficking and offers survivors of child trafficking safe houses as they work towards reintegrating them back with their families.
Phone: +254 20 2 140010/ 140011/ 140013
Mobile: +254 73 8 410690
Wema Centre offers homes to girls at risk of sexual exploitation in Mombasa and Thika. Started in 1993 by Lucy Yinda, the organisation aims to rehabilitate and integrate children living on the street — specifically girls — who are vulnerable to sex trafficking by providing them with a home, education and skills training.
Phone: +254 20 2 041366 / +254 72 2 773363