Digital solutions for civil society organisations in the Horn of Africa to better support victims of trafficking
"I am always reminded of a happy ending after long hours and months of handling a case of a victim of trafficking", says Phiona Namazzi. She is a social worker at the civil society organisation Rahab in Uganda, whose doors are open to vulnerable women and girls since 2006. The organisation aims to restore the self-image of girls affected by sexual exploitation and human trafficking. It also raises community awareness on anti-trafficking through campaigns and workshops, while providing after-care services for the survivors.
"We file the cases of each victim of trafficking to document what happened to them, which services we provided, the effects and the development of the cases", explains Phiona. "The data helps us to improve our services, our management and operational performance and to support investigation against the traffickers, where prosecutable cases arise. We also use the data for research purposes and to support advocacy for better policies."
Most migrants from the Horn of Africa move within the region. Most of them are leaving their home out of necessity - because of extreme weather conditions, political unrest, conflicts or poverty and they are seeking for better livelihood conditions. Along the way, many fall victim to human trafficking because of their vulnerabilities and social needs. Human Trafficking is a growing business for purposes of profit. Men, women, and children across the Horn of Africa are trafficked for labour in farms, homes and construction sites, for sexual exploitation, for adoption and for other purposes such as forced marriage.
Gaining findings from the cases
"I was shocked when I learned that people involved in human trafficking are often acquaintances in whom desperate job seekers have full confidence", Phiona says and gives an example: "In 2019, Jane (real name withheld) fell into the traps of labour traffickers here in Uganda with a promise of a high paying domestic job in Jordan. The 20-year-old woman got the contact from her local community and was excited about this job opportunity. While working in Jordan, Jane was faced with inhuman treatment and suffered at the hands of her employers. She experienced psychological and physical abuse. As a local civil organisation picked her, she needed immediate care and treatment. She was sick and weak with a bruised body."
The organisation in Jordan contacted Rahab to help with the repatriation and to provide her with support. "Unlike other tragic stories of women and girls, she survived, was treated and rehabilitated and got reunited with her son and sister", Phiona says.
Rahab’s priority is to promote the self-worth of the victims and vulnerable. It makes me happy to see that all the women and girls we support get their lives and stolen passions back.- Phiona, social worker at the civil society organisation Rahab
Filing paper: slow and less efficient
Rahab uses an online information and management system to record cases like Jane’s and to follow up on the development. The Victim Case Management System has advanced the way the organisation works, helping it improve its procedures. Many organisations doing similar work in Uganda, are still using a paper filing system, which is slow, and time-consuming. In fact, sometimes, information critical to care and support for the clients can get misplaced.
Winnie Mutevu who works at Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART), a Kenya based civil society organisation, confirms the advantages of the system. "Recently a colleague who was responsible for the victim’s protection department left the organisation. In the past, such a change would have created a big problem because the new person would need to physically locate and manually scan through all the 160 plus case files of open cases and get familiar with the histories."
Today however, the information system, eases the way we pick information around all cases, it ensures victims privacy and protection from reliving past traumas, since information is captured once with no need to recall clients to provide it again.- Winnie, worker at Awareness Against Human Trafficking
The Victim Case Management System used by Rahab and HAART was developed by Liberty Shared, a non-profit organisation that aims to prevent human trafficking using technology that improves record keeping. Currently, it is used by 9 civil society organisations in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. The system makes it easy to upload data and gives quick access to case information using a secure cloud-based system that can be accessed from anywhere. It also offers an offline version along with a mobile app to respond to limited internet connectivity within the region.
Winnie points out another important benefit of the system: "The data helps to understand the trends and patterns of human trafficking. We can analyse that unemployment, vulnerabilities especially for girls and women and local community settings are key factors for raising numbers of trafficking in persons. We develop our community outreach activities based on these results in order to avoid more people becoming victims of human trafficking."
The Better Migration Management (BMM) programme funded by the European Union – through the EU Trust Fund for Africa - and Germany supports civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Horn of Africa to improve protection and assistance for victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants. Rahab and HAART are members of the Regional CSO Network, initiated in 2017 and still facilitated by BMM to promote cooperation and exchange amongst them.
The network has grown to include 63 organisations in seven countries in the Horn of Africa, all of them working on anti-trafficking in human beings. BMM provides CSOs with trainings such as on data protection, human rights or quality of services. BMM also established the Victim Case Management System at nine CSOs in cooperation with Liberty Shared.