OTJIWARONGO - Students in Otjituuo marched against human trafficking on Tuesday as part of the Otjozondjupa Region’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2019 commemoration.
Regional officials organized the observance at Otjituuo Primary School in Otjituuo, a settlement in Okakarara Constituency, to spread awareness on the dangers of human trafficking and preventative tips.
After an anti-trafficking student march from the Otjituuo Police Station to the primary school, students, parents, community leaders, and officials from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and the Namibian Police Force (Nampol) gathered at the school’s hall for an information sharing meeting about the crime. The United Nations (UN) defines human trafficking as a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes, including forced labour, marriage, or sex.
Last year’s regional event was held in Otjiwarongo, however Julia Aktofel, a Chief Community Liaison Officer with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare’s Otjozondjupa regional office, says the region’s 2019 commemoration was held in Otjituuo to address the specific vulnerabilities rural communities face. Traffickers often lure individuals from disadvantaged areas with false promises of work or education.
“People in the outskirts in remote areas are the ones that are targeted for trafficking so we want to alert them. We want to create awareness so that they can be vigilant and know where dangers are and what to do if they sense it,” said Aktofel.
She added that the day’s observance also aimed to educate Otjituuo, a farming community, on the potential of unknowingly harbouring trafficked people. Nampol officials have identified a trend of trafficked Angolan children recruited for employment in Namibia as cattle herders or domestic workers.
Ruben Uushona, principal of Otjituuo Primary School, says he comes across children as young as eleven unsupervised at locations such as shebeens throughout Otjituuo, making them vulnerable to traffickers. He says at his school of over 500 students, low parental involvement and little education of social threats like trafficking among guardians were among the reasons the day’s commemoration mattered to the local community.
“These learners come from marginalized communities and we felt it was a necessity to spread information on trafficking. Most of their parents are uneducated. That’s why we also felt that even the young ones should attend,” he said.
A 2016 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report stated that 62 percent of trafficking victims in Sub-Saharan Africa were children. According to Nampol, there are currently 20 cases of human trafficking in Namibia pending trial and 15 still under investigation, a significant increase over the last two years which they say illustrates the commitment of law enforcement and prosecutors.
Namibia passed the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act in 2018. While the act is not yet operational, Nampol relies on the provisions of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 2004 which criminalises all forms of trafficking. Combating Trafficking in Persons training manuals tailor-made for the Namibian perspective were launched in March as well as a trafficking pocket manual for first responders. Last year, 140 Namibian immigration officials received trafficking training.
World Day Against Trafficking in Persons has been marked globally since 2013 when the day was first declared by the United Nations. This year marks Namibia’s third observance.
*This article was submitted by Kaylan Shipanga, an Information Officer at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology’s Otjozondjupa regional office.
Solidarity… Students in Otjituuo held an anti-human trafficking march on Tuesday as part of the Otjozondjupa Region’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2019 commemoration.