Community project to raise awareness of human trafficking in Botswana

Community project to raise awareness of human trafficking in Botswana

Thank you so much to the Mandela Washington Fellows for the invitation to offer closing remarks.  I am so pleased to support our incredible Fellows and their community project to raise awareness of human trafficking in Botswana.

Now, before I jump in – let me recognize a few people.

Thank you to all of the representatives from the Ministries of Local Government; Health and Wellness; Nationality, Immigration & Gender Affairs; the Botswana Police Service, European Union, World Health Organization, UNICEF, SADC, SOS Children’s Shelter, members of the media, and YALI alumni.

And for those I did not mention, I recognize you.

Thank you to MADODA NASHA from the Ministry of Defense for everything you have done to help our Mandela Washington Fellows organize this youth conference.

And to all of you who answered our call and signed up today.  Thank you for coming – participating – learning AND inspiring change.  Together, we will end modern day slavery.

Our fight against human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights causes of our time and the United States will continue to partner with the government of Botswana, the Fellows and young people like you.  We must all do our part.

That’s exactly what the 2018 cohort has done.  In July 2018, before they left for the United States on their exchange experience, these young leaders devised a plan to support the Government of Botswana in its efforts to tackle TIP, particularly among youth.

Since their return in August of last year, they have met with important stakeholders in the relevant ministries, civil society, and the international community to examine where resources are most needed and how best to reach out to young people.

Judging by this amazing audience and the hype on social media – we are off to an auspicious start.

As reported over the past five years in the U.S. Government’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, Botswana is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.

Residents of Botswana most vulnerable to trafficking are unemployed women, the rural poor and agricultural workers, as well as young children.  Often lured into a promise of a better life, one with education and employment.

In the face of this hard reality, the Government of Botswana has diligently worked to combat TIP.  It has supported 15 workshops for front-line responders including child protection and law enforcement officers, district officers, and border officials on victim protection procedures.

The police service includes a section on human trafficking in its curriculum to educate recruits.  The police service also added to its in-service training for officers – the anti-trafficking law, victim identification, and investigation of human trafficking cases.

The government is working but it cannot go at it alone.

The enormity of the problem can be daunting.  So you may be asking yourselves, “What can we possibly do as individuals?”

My answer?  Is Plenty!  In fact, trafficking cannot be eradicated without the work of each and every one of us.  But you do not have to take my word for it.  Let me share with you just a few examples of how youth in the YALI Network have tackled TIP in their communities:

In Nigeria, A YALI Network member is mentoring girls who have been victims of human trafficking by organizing training sessions on reproductive health and life-building skills to help prepare them to adjust to society and decrease their vulnerability to being re-trafficked.

In Kenya, a YALI Network member helped young women start small income-generating projects, such as small crop farming, that helps earn them independence from men and decrease their vulnerability to sexual predators.

In South Africa, a YALI member initiated the first “Young Women Thrive” business conference, where young female entrepreneurs gather to network and collaborate on new and exciting business ideas.

All of these models empower the most vulnerable.

  • YOUNG BOYS – cheap labor
  • SLAVERY IN THE UNITED STATES – we will look back and wonder how we stood by.

The change we seek will not come easy  –  it never does.

but I hope after today’s conference, you all have ideas of how to combat human trafficking in your communities and you will pledge to take action.

Like Mr. Nasha and each of the stakeholders who have worked with our YALI fellows thus far, the U.S. Government knows that by harnessing the energy and ingenuity of youth in Botswana, there are no insurmountable problems, only solutions yet to be discovered.

I look forward to partnering with you on this journey.