Does Access to Information ACTUALLY Affect Decision Making related to Human Trafficking?
An Introduction to the Wetaase Platform
Imagine you’ve just got off the phone with your cousin.
She’s just got a job abroad that will pay her 10 times what she makes here in Uganda. She leaves in 2 weeks and you’re excited for her, too. Jane has always been a hard worker. But something in the back of your mind tells you that all may not be right. You try to search online but can’t find any information on the company. Most of the information on Ugandans working in that country is bad news. You look for useful information on trafficking from Uganda. Nothing.
What do you do?
Uganda is a source and destination country for human trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation. We highlighted the state of affairs for human trafficking and forced labour in Uganda in our recent blog post. A recent article in the New Vision showcased the plight of Ugandans aboard, with several losing their lives to suicide.
Wetaase is a mobile and web -based resource for Ugandan citizens across the world. The platform uses a toll-free helpline to provide vital lifesaving information to Uganda for free, but also actively collects data from all callers. With this data collected, Pollicy aims to build a database that informs government and their partners on important information related to trafficking such as common trafficking routes and recruitment strategies. This data will be used to monitor and prevent both domestic and transnational trafficking. The helpline will also allow Ugandans to report incidents of trafficking and connects them directly to support organizations offering extraction, aftercare support and legal aid for victims.
The aims and objectives of the platform include
- Creating linkages between high risk groups, victims and survivors to safe migration resources, legal help and aftercare service providers
- Educating users with human trafficking resources about migration red flags - Promoting authorized and legitimate migration companies to enable them to make more informed decisions.
The platform enables and promotes safe migration through the provision of resources, migration red flags and a survey a user can take to find out whether their migration plans are safe or not. Through the helpline and chatbot and our growing network of lawyers, counsellors and shelters, victims in or outside of Uganda can request for rescue from a trafficking situation. Finally, our team will also create a central open data repository with resources and statistics on human trafficking in the country that can be utilized by Government and civil society organizations.
To date, Pollicy has successfully set the Wetaase web platform (www.wetaase.org) which is filled with migration statistics and safe migration tips and resources, a chat bot and links to CSO’s that provide aftercare services and legal aid. The toll free helpline is up and running as well providing safe migration tips, red flags and linkages to organisations that provide aftercare and legal services in two languages; English and Luganda. Pollicy is also in talks with CSO’s and Government agencies working on human trafficking to develop working relationships and aims to have the platform launched and fully operational by the coming year. We are in the process of signing MoUs and bringing on organizations to utilize the open database.
In order to launch a product that has the user at the forefront, Pollicy carried out a baseline study to establish citizen’s access to information, how they would use the available information as well as to validate the concept of Wetaase. Surveys were carried out in mainly two areas; Makerere University Business School where participants surveyed were primarily young students (18–24 years) and the city centre with a focus on shopping malls and arcades (25–35 years and above) as the two age groups were hypothesized to have different perspectives.
We found most people found employment through their family or friends. In conversations with organizations working on human trafficking here in Uganda, a recurring theme was that victims are often trafficking by people quite close to them, i.e. friends and family!
A majority of participants (82%) knew of someone working abroad and the most common employment destination for these people was the Middle East.
There is also a big appetite for young Ugandans to work abroad. Sixty-five (65%) of participants would be willing to travel and work abroad, in search of better opportunities.
The data was compiled into an infographic for easy sharing of the information.
We received a vast amount of useful feedback from the participants after they were shown how the helpline works. We intend to incorporate this feedback back into our next iteration of the platform.
Next steps for Wetaase include finalising the content on the website and helpline to ensure high quality and authentic information is given to users, including more language options to the helpline as it offers assistance in only English and Luganda at the moment, and establishing working relationships with CSO’s and Government agencies working on human trafficking so that users are able to connect with them through the platform. All this should be ready by the next year as the platform will be officially launched then.
With this, we hope Wetaase will inform government work, enable monitoring and advocacy of human trafficking issues and access to aftercare and legal services, thus leading to the prevention of human trafficking in Uganda.
Written by Esther Ndagire, Fellow at Pollicy