Friday, 31 July 2015

ARTS TO END SLAVERY




Kenya has reported many cases whereby girls go to Arabian countries and come back dead. 
Others are lucky enough to tell their traumatizing stories.

‘I went to Dammam, Saudi Arabia as a house help. The lady of the house had reached menopause. The husband wanted to have a baby with me but I had my fallopian tubes blocks before I travelled. The husband would not listen. He forced me to undergo a procedure to reverse the operation I had gone through,’ says 26 year old Vera (not her real name) a mother of 5.

She says that the man lied to her that they were going to Syria for a family holiday but he was planning to take her to his hospital to have her fallopian tubes unblocked.

Vera also recalls some of the times when her boss would rape her daily but finally managed to escape.
Project consultant from Awareness against Human Trafficking HAART Kenya Sophie Otiende says that girls normally still insist on going back work in the Arabian countries.

‘They are normally breadwinners and there is pressure from their family members for them to back and look for money. Poverty is also a motivating factor. Others hope their situation will be better. For some the idea of boarding a plane is exciting. Little do they know they are victims of human trafficking.’

She adds that many are victims of Gender Based Violence in their home countries so they are ready to be mistreated and exploited sexually on foreign soil, so long as they are getting paid.

Apart from poor working conditions Vera says that the owners of the house tried to sacrifice her life when she went to Libya after a rough experience in Saudi Arabia.

‘They used to do their chants in Arabic but little did they know that I understood that language. They sent two men who forcefully stripped and applied a yellow substance on my private parts. They said I would die in 2 days.’

She managed to escape again but she adds that she is ready to work again in the Arabian countries since she has to pay school fees for her children especially her first who is about to join secondary school.

‘We try to counsel them and also use art as a way to help them handle trauma, ‘says Otiende.

‘Art is therapeutic. It helps them to explore their emotions. Some cannot say in words what they went through so we ask them to draw or paint images of what they went through by using water colours, charcoal or crayon.  This helps them heal their emotional scars. These paintings and statues also help in raising awareness to the public and understand the concept of human trafficking,’ says Khayundi Bwali, a therapist at HAART Kenya during an art exhibition to educate the masses on the concept of human trafficking. 

‘When people hear about human trafficking they picture a young girl being mistreated in Saudi Arabia. However trafficking can happen locally whereby an underage is forced to work under poor pay. Human trafficking is trading people for purposes of commercial exploitation’, says Malinowski Radoslaw founder of HAART.

Artist Aggrey Abwata explains that his painting was inspired by societies which insist on not taking their children to get an education and prefer to convert them to do house chores or look after cattle.
‘My piece is set to put the message out there that that girls have potential and that they can be taken to school as well as their male counterparts Some of these issues arise due to lack of awareness in the community. Trafficking happens right in front of us yet we see not. ‘

Onyis Martin says that he did not undergo any official training to paint and that he wants to use his talent to educate the masses on the social evils that take place in the society.

‘We should not sell girls they are not products. My painting depicts darkness and how girls get emotionally drained when mistreated in these Arabian countries. It is a sad experience. It is like their souls have been sucked out of their bodies. When people see such a picture they stick it to their memory and are able to see the diverse effects of exploiting employees, adds Onyis who is also exhibiting his art in this gallery.

‘Art can be used as an agent for change and alter their perceptions for the better. Selling children to exploit them commercially is unethical, says Mike Mugo one of the visitors at the gallery who proclaims his love for art.

Kenya has been mentioned as a source, transit nation, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands research says Kenya is therefore given “Tier 2 Watch List” status (out of three tiers) by the State Department Office, as it has not demonstrated evidence of increased efforts to combat human trafficking despite passing the law