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Labor Export or Human Trafficking: Tackling the Labor Laws in Uganda

The Africa Faith & Justice Network’s (AFJN) Women Empowerment Project is making impact across Africa, this time in Uganda and in partnership with the Association of Religious in Uganda (ARU). The coalition set out to tackle Human Trafficking with concrete results to show but the hard work to hold those responsible, and prevent Ugandan youth from falling in the trap of traffickers is ongoing.

Concerned about Labor Export turned into Legal Human Trafficking

In Uganda labor export is one of the government’s policies to address youth unemployment. This year, it was reported that there are 96 labor export companies licensed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. (Stuart Oramire, lawyer and a pre-departure trainer, Daily Monitor, June 2018)  On June 17, 2017, a year earlier, the Ugandan police listed 49 “licensed private recruitment companies as of 10th May 2017”. The increase in labor export licenses tells the story of increase of migrant workers leaving Uganda legally. Unfortunately, there have been reports of killing, poisoning, sexual abuse and women who are forced to have sex with animals. Last year, 48 Ugandans on labor export committed suicide abroad. To consider taking one’s own life as a way to free one’s soul and body from suffering, is unequivocally evidence that the conditions were extreme for the victims. May their souls rest in peace! “In the last year alone [2017], there have been reports of the violent deaths of at least 10 Ugandan women in Gulf countries at the hands of their employers or relatives of their employers. Charges are hardly brought against the suspected perpetrators of injustice.” (Godfrey Olukya, Interpol warns Ugandan migrant workers | East & Horn Africa, The Africa Report, July 2016).  Ugandans recruited for labor abroad are sent to the Middle East including the Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, etc

Ugandan Catholic Nuns say enough with unchecked Labor Expert Policy

From November 18-24, 2018 in Uganda’s Capital City Kampala, Africa Faith & Justice Network’s Executive Director Fr. Aniedi Okure, OP and Women Empowerment Project Coordinator Sr. Eucharia Madueke, SNDdeN held Catholic Social Teaching, social analysis and advocacy training for about 35 Catholic nuns, members of the Association of Religious in Uganda. Sr. Juliet Ifediba, OLA joined AFJN team from Burkina Faso where she has recently been assigned for missionary work. Prior to her assignment, she was an active member of Africa Faith & Justice Network Nigeria and was instrumental in, among other things, working with Nigeria’s Edo State government, traditional rulers and other stakeholders to pass one of the toughest anti Human trafficking laws in Nigeria.

Ahead of the gathering, and as part of AFJN’s policy of having advocacy action plan by workshop participants to engage the stakeholders in order to find a solution to a given local problem they wish to solve, asked the sisters in Uganda to come with what they wanted to tackle. The sisters identified Human Trafficking as the issue they want the people and the government of Uganda to tackle.

Nuns Visit Government Official for Advocacy

Following the training, the nuns took their message to several Ugandan ministries: Ministries of Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Gender, Labour and Social Development and the Ugandan Human Rights Commission (UHRC). The sisters called on the government to take a very hard look at the legal export of labor abroad because it has become a lucrative and legal human trafficking scheme.

In a Press briefing after meeting with government officials the nuns said that “It [human trafficking] has continued to expose our sisters and brothers to untold torture, sexual abuse and slavery. Some of our daughters are trafficked abroad and forced to have sex with animals, while others are killed for organ transplant”

On December 3rd, after meeting with the nuns, the Ugandan Speaker Parliament, Her Excellency the Honorable Rebecca Kadaga, said that “Last year, we had stopped government from allowing what they call domestic workers to go out. We thought we can allow those who want jobs as drivers and bankers,” and “Unfortunately, a number of people in government own labor export companies and I am told it is very lucrative so they continued,” (Moses Kyeyune , Kadaga blames government for human trafficking, The Daily Monitor, December 7, 2018).  Referring to the nuns as agents of change, The Speaker of Parliament pledged to reach out to the sisters through their association to listen to this and other advocacy concerns they have.

Ugandan Government Quick Reaction to Catholic Nuns’ Anti-Trafficking Message

As result of the nuns’ advocacy against unchecked Uganda’s labor export, the Minister of Gender, Labor and Social Development organized a review of the policy within 3 weeks after hearing from the nuns.  He invited two of them to take part in the review of the policy which took place on December 11 – 12, 2018.

Government Alone not an answer to Human Trafficking

In the meantime, the nuns have taken the issue of human trafficking to their faith communities, parents, institutions of education and the nation using the media, conferences and word of mouth. Also, it is worth mentioning the presence at the gathering in Kampala of four Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur respectively from their provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Zimbabwe-South Africa and Nigeria. It is the vision of women religious to work hard to protect human dignity and trafficking which affect mostly women.

AFJN Women Empowerment Project is made possible by the support of its Organizational Members of 29 Catholic religious congregation of men and women, Conrad Hilton Foundation and our individual members.

This article was first published on www.afjn.org. The Missionaries of Africa are supporters and co-founders of the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN).