Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
WOMEN who have ambitions of migrating a n d working abroad are at high risk of falling prey to fraudsters or covert schemes of human trafficking.
It is normal to dream of a good paying job in a foreign land and getting good money to send home to help one’s family.
There are so many people in less developed and developed countries who live on remittances from their parents, children and siblings working abroad.
According to the World Bank, in 2017, sub-Saharan Africa received US$38 billion, compared to US$33 billion in 2016, in remittances from migrants working in foreign countries.
Obviously, migration-related remittances bestow immense benefits to individual beneficiaries in countries of origin so much as they contribute to gross domestic product.
Many people in developing countries like ours get inspired to migrate in search of greener pastures upon seeing migrant workers who have made it abroad.
But sadly some of the migrant workers are lured by sugar-coated job offers abroad, but when they travel, having sold their freedom to traffickers, they end up in servitude conditions.
Some, like our young girls who are being trafficked in Namibia, end up as sex workers in foreign countries where they had been promised lucrative jobs.
When disappointed by dishonest human traffickers, others settle for ordinary jobs, such as domestic work, which they could get locally, and probably get better deals because of the advantage of being home.
Perhaps some of you are aware of what is happening in Western Province, especially Senanga and Sesheke, where girls are being trafficked to Namibia to work as domestic workers and prostitutes.
Girls and boys in the area are being sold in Namibia with the promise of good jobs, but when they arrive there, they find themselves working as domestic workers.
Senanga district commissioner Vivian Mubukwanu said some of the girls being trafficked are sold out as prostitutes in the neighbouring country that borders Sesheke and Senanga districts.
Just last week, seven victims of human trafficking – six girls and one boy – aged between 13 and 19 were rescued from Namibia where they had gone in search of good jobs.
The children were received by the district administration in Senanga and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
It was an emotional reunion of the young victims of human trafficking with their relatives.
Obviously the victims come from underprivileged families that see nothing wrong with engaging children as young as 13 in gainful employment.
For some families, the age and need for a child to go to school doesn’t matter so long one is working and supporting the family.
However, child trafficking presents a double-barrelled challenge because victims are not only engaged in forced labour, but are also abused sexually.
Apparently, the children are being sent to work in Namibia and other countries around the world, with the consent of parents and guardians who want to live on the sweat of immature people.
After receiving the victims of human trafficking last week, Ms Mubukwanu observed that the unscrupulous business people were taking advantage of the innocence of young people to trade them as prostitutes.
But personally, I fault parents and guardians involved in the human trafficking scam for allowing children who ought to be in school to cross borders as migrant workers.
Obviously the criminal syndicates don’t care about the well-being of these children, which is why they will cheat to buy them and abuse them when they cross borders.
Unless one is rebellious, for a 13-year-old to go and work abroad, they should be trafficked with the consent of parents or guardians.
And my take on what is happening in Western Province is that the buck stops at parents of the affected children.
Apparently communities that are vulnerable to human trafficking need sensitisation on the inherent ills of child labour and sexual exploitation thereof.
Parents ought to know that bread-winning is not a responsibility of children but adults.
Children need to enjoy their childhood while preparing for a good future through the best possible education that their parents could afford.
And one of the ways by which poor families could break the poverty cycle is by taking their children to school.
Engaging children in forced labour only bequeaths affected poor families with short-term benefits, but in the long term it makes poverty a chronic problem in the family.
But by the look of things, many underprivileged families see child labour as an easy way out of the scarcity of basic needs of life.
Apart from human trafficking, there are many other avenues of child labour within the borders of Zambia.
For example, there are so many child labourers in domestic work and agriculture sector, particularly farms; while others work as traders in the markets and streets.
The Government, as well as civil society organisations, should not be fatigued by the campaign against child labour because the vice still looms large.
Now the scourge of human trafficking has brought about a new dimension to the challenge of child labour.
No responsible parent should allow underage children to go and work abroad even if the trafficker is promising lucrative conditions of service.
The world of work comes with different challenges and strenuous responsibilities which children should have no business dealing with.
Narratives of trafficked workers from around the globe highlight abuse of labour of the worst kind.
Young people actually need to carefully scrutinise job offers and consult labour experts before migrating abroad to work.
Here I am referring to skilled or qualified human resources who wish to migrate abroad.
It is folly on the part of school drop-outs and illiterate youths to think that they could migrate and get well-paying jobs abroad.
Don’t get me wrong here – migration of labour from one country is a good thing which bestows benefits on both countries of origin and recipient ones.
But would-be migrant workers need to be real with themselves by gauging their eligibility for certain job offers.
If you overrate yourself, don’t be surprised to find yourself working as cheap labour in a foreign land.
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Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA